A St. John's man who escaped a possible electrical fire at a St. John's seniors' apartment building says he is glad to be alive.

Bill Westcott said he and his wife Jenny didn't initially make much of the smell of smoke at Maplewood Place on Wednesday, but before long they realized it was serious.

"There [were] puffs of black smoke coming in the door, the seams of the door and I said, 'Oh God, Jenny, we're going, we're going,' " said Westcott.

Fire officials have not disclosed the probable cause of the fire, although area MHA Tom Osborne said he's been told the cause is believed an electrical fire in a recliner chair may have been the cause.

Nearly 200 residents were rushed out of the Shaw Street complex during blizzard-like conditions. 

Westcott said he became disoriented as the smoke thickened, and he and his wife were barely able to breathe. He quickly decided to put a towel over his wife's head to protect her from the smoke.

"She stumbled and I hit a wall," he said. "I thought I was going straight and I fell and I picked her up again and she didn't want to go any further. And then I saw two lights, two firemen and I said, 'Help.' " 

 Most residents spent the night in hotel rooms or with family.

"I feel very emotional still thinking how close I came to death," said Westcott.

"We would have died. I wouldn't have gone on without Jenny and [I] think they'd be two casualties – Jenny and myself, and they'd find us…in an eternal embrace."

Westcott said he and his wife were taken away by ambulance and brought to hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation.

The couple lost everything in the fire, except the clothes they were wearing and the towel Westcott put on his wife to prevent her from inhaling more smoke.

"I'm not going to do away with that, that's going to stay with me," he said.

"I know we've lost everything. But the thing we didn't lose was our lives you know, my god almighty."