Nfld. & Labrador

'It would have been a disaster': Quick action stopped forest fire from devouring Kenmount Terrace home

If not for the fast actions of a cat-sitter and some firefighters, the Kenmount Terrace forest fire could have had a much different outcome.

Deck fire nearly ignited house, but firefighters crashed through fence to stop it

A firefighter hoses down a house in Kenmount Terrace in St. John's on Monday, where a falling ember from a nearby forest fire ignited the backyard deck. (Gary Locke/CBC)

Ken Dawe looks out over his daughter's charred patio and surveys the damage with a stupefied grin.

If not for the fast actions of this cat-sitting father and some St. John's region firefighters, the Kenmount Terrace forest fire may have had a much different outcome.

Give it another two or three minutes … the side of the house would have gone up.- Ken Dawe

"It would have been a disaster," Dawe says, his gaze fixed on a hole in the fence that made all the difference.

Dawe stopped into his daughter's home on Stephano Street around noon Monday to check on her cats. He smelled smoke, and spotted it just beyond the treeline metres from the backyard.

He went for a drive to get a better look and realized the smoke was coming from a towering forest fire burning out of control.

Ken Dawe speaks with CBC reporter Ryan Cooke about how this patio which caught fire nearly sparked the entire neighbourhood. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

Dawe was given a police escort to retrieve the cats.

But when he entered the house, he realized the deck was already on fire — a falling ember had ignited some mulch in the backyard.

Dawe began yelling to the police officer, but the neighbours behind the house had spotted the fire at the same time. In a twist of good fortune, a firefighter was on the other side of the fence dealing with a hot spot on the adjacent street.

"They immediately came over and knocked down that fence and got a hose on that fire," he said, pointing to the fallen pickets on the ground.

Within moments, the 10-foot flames were extinguished and a crisis was averted.

Police and fire crews on the scene in the Kenmount Terrace area. (Fred Hutton/CBC)

"Give it another two or three minutes without anyone noticing, the side of the house would have gone up, the house would have been on fire and there would have been flames shooting off in this whole neighbourhood," he said.

Dawe wasn't the only one feeling fortunate on Monday evening as the evacuation order was lifted and people began returning to their homes.

'Everything was still smouldering'

Edward Cole was checking on a friend's property at the end of Orlando Place when he spotted smoke on the side of the driveway. The grass had caught fire again.

Edward Cole came to check on a friend's house, only to find the siding melted and hot spots still burning on the ground. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

"When [police] finally let us in, we had to hose everything down because everything was still smouldering," Cole said.

He managed to put the fire out, but the damage to the house had already been done. The siding was melted and warped across the entire back of the home, while the vinyl-clad windows were also melted and misshapen.

The edge of the forest fire cuts off less than 10 feet behind a fence on Orlando Avenue. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

The edge of the forest fire left a burn line within less than 10 feet of most houses on the street. At the house Cole was looking after, the charred line went up onto the grass in the backyard.

With heavy smoke throughout much of the area, some residents said they were uncomfortable going back to their houses for the night. First responders are asking them to monitor their yards to keep an eye out for more flames.

Cole said his biggest worry was the fire starting again from a hot spot just when people thought they were safe.

Fire forced Kenmount Terrace residents out of their homes Monday 1:25

Dawe, meanwhile, was feeling relieved on Monday evening that things weren't much worse.

"Thank you to the firemen and the police who were around," he said. "They did a great job."

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