A woman whose 15-month-old son was found home alone in a burning Hamilton house is a “good mom” who had stepped out to buy milk just minutes before the fire started, her boyfriend says.
Firefighters found the toddler by himself when they rescued him from the couple’s semi-detached home on Bay Street North just after noon on Thursday.
Police have interviewed the mother and her boyfriend to find out why the child was left alone and are looking into the incident with the help of children’s aid officials.
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Though Ryder, the woman’s son from a previous relationship, is in stable condition at McMaster Children’s Hospital, the case has sparked angry calls on social media for the child to be removed from his parents.
But on Friday, the mother’s boyfriend said the early reporting on the fire doesn’t tell the whole story, and he vigourously defended his girlfriend.
“This is just like a freak accident,” said the 24-year-old man, who asked not to be named. “She doesn’t deserve to be looked at like that.”
Speaking with reporters in front of the house on Thursday, he said he was at work renovating houses at the time of the fire.
The man said the toddler was in the care of the 25-year-old mother. He said she’d asked a neighbour to watch over the boy while she made a trip with a friend to a nearby convenience store.
The fire, the boyfriend said, started within minutes of the mother leaving, and she rushed home after getting a call with the news that smoke was coming from the house.
“It’s the one time that anything could ever have happened.”
He said his girlfriend, a stay-at-home mother, is “obviously broken” after the fire, which sent her son to hospital with smoke inhalation.
According to officials, the fire caused an estimated $100,000 in damage to the house, which belongs to the boyfriend’s father, developer Marino Rakovac.
'People are looking from the outside in. They don’t know what’s going on.' — Mother's boyfriend
The family had no fire insurance on the house, the boyfriend said. Much of their clothing and “all of the baby stuff” was destroyed.
“Her life was going great and she was saving money,” he said. “Everything is going fine. And then one day, one day, everything changes.”
He described his partner as a “good mom“ and said Ryder is “well, well, well taken care of.”
“He’s got a little belly on him and he likes to eat, for sure,” the man said. “She’s not neglecting him at all.”
He said the mother has spent most of the last day in hospital by her son’s side, but noted she’s aware that online commenters have accused her of neglecting the child.
“She knows. 'Everybody thinks I’m a bad mom,’ she cries.”
He asked for people who don’t know the couple to rush to judgment based on early news reports about the fire.
“People are looking from the outside in. They don’t know what’s going on.”
Emergency crews rushed to the home just after noon on Thursday after receiving a call about smoke streaming from the back of the house.
When they arrived, firefighters learned from neighbours that residents might be in the house. Crews found the boy inside and carried him out front for medical treatment.
Firefighters extinguished the flames in less than a half an hour.
The Ontario Fire Marshal was on scene on Friday morning to determine an exact cause of the fire, which has already been deemed non-suspicious.
The flames started in a first-floor utility room, said fire marshal investigator Mike Ross.
Hamilton police said on Friday that they’re working with children’s aid officials to find out why the toddler was found home alone at the time of the fire.
The incident could lead to charges, said police spokeswoman Debbie McGreal-Dinning.
The mother’s boyfriend welcomed the police probe, but said he’s confident the couple will be found to have done nothing wrong.
“They are going to investigate. They have to.”