Woman pulled from burning home by RCMP officer
'You almost don't even think about yourself. You're just reacting,' says Cst. Dan Keeling
A 21-year-old woman is safe after being pulled from a raging house fire in Deschambault Lake by an alert RCMP officer who happened to be in the neighbourhood at just the right time.
It was Tuesday, around 6:55 p.m., when Cst. Dan Keeling was doing a routine traffic stop in the northern Saskatchewan community and he noticed some smoke coming from an area just up the road from where he was.
I did a quick think and made the decision to go in.- RCMP Cst. Dan Keeling
He turned his attention to the smoke and saw people in front of a house were waving, frantically. He immediately knew something was up and jumped into his cruiser to get to the home.
Once there, he found a small bungalow with thick, black smoke billowing from the inside and the rear of the building in flames.
"I spoke to people outside who said someone was still inside — in the living room," Keeling told CBC News Thursday. "I did a quick think and made the decision to go in."
Once inside, Keeling encountered very dense smoke from about knee level up. He dropped down and got as low as he could and entered the living room as he was familiar with the layout of the house. He then saw a woman on a couch, apparently asleep but Keeling was not certain of her condition.
"I just grabbed her," Keeling said. "And at that point the heat from the fire was getting pretty hot and I was holding my breath as I dragged her to the front door."
Just as they got to the door the woman, 21, began to stir and, now fully conscious, she was able to get out safely with Keeling.
Goes back inside
But no sooner was he outside than Keeling heard someone shout that there were babies in the back of the house.
Keeling turned and re-entered the home.
By now, however, the fire was so intense it was impossible to proceed beyond the entry area. The flames, Keeling said, had entered the front rooms. At that moment, however, he heard someone yell, "They're safe!"
"And my heart went from sunken to immense relief," Keeling said.
Back outside, the officer then confirmed that everyone was indeed out of the house and accounted for. They were four adults, including the young woman rescued, and three toddler-aged children.
Keeling said he then called for back-up as he had to manage the fire scene because almost the whole community had arrived to see what was going on. By now flames had completely engulfed the home and it burned to the ground.
The Deschambault Lake fire service team was able to assist in keeping the fire from spreading to other residences in the area.
Finds shoes for youngster without any
Keeling kept on with his work and took statements from people. When he learned that one of the youngsters had escaped the fire but had no shoes, Keeling went next door and was able to borrow a pair for the child.
Keeling said the house was a total loss, which will be difficult for the family as housing is in short supply in the community, but the most important thing is that everyone got out safe.
"It's hard to describe the feeling," he said, reflecting back on the drama of what happened. "You're faced with such a task and you almost don't even think about yourself. You're just reacting according to your training. Doing my duty."
In Keeling's case, the training was very recent. The 22-year-old was a cadet at RCMP Depot division in Regina just six months ago. Deschambault Lake is his first posting as a Mountie.
"To experience this, so early in my career has me looking forward to so much," he said. "The reward of assisting the public and being able to save someone is really something."
He said his family members back home in Florence, N.S., were excited to learn about the amazing rescue, but worried about him and relieved everyone was OK.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but arson is not suspected at this time. Deschambault Lake is about 470 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon.