Nfld. & Labrador

Playing with matches starts fire, and sends a message, too

A house fire in St. John's on Saturday was caused by a 10-year-old playing with matches.

Mom says fire could have been worse if her son had tried to hide

Wendy Dunne is thankful that her 10-year-old son didn't run and hide after accidentally starting a fire in his room. (Submitted by Wendy Dunne)

A house fire in St. John's on Saturday was caused by a 10-year-old playing with matches. 

Wendy Dunne, her three kids and her mother are all safe, but she says parents need to teach their children more than just the dangers of fire and matches. 

I'm fairly confident that he's not going to play with a match again.- Wendy Dunne

Dunne woke to the sound of the smoke detector and immediately thought it was malfunctioning until she was greeted in the hallway by her son and the smell of smoke.

"He was crying and saying, 'The house is on fire and we're going to die,'" Dunne said in an interview with CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

"I opened up his [bedroom] door and I just saw flames."

After seeing the mattress on fire in her son's room, Dunne's only thought was getting everyone out of the house safely. 

Her daughter called 911 as she got her mother and eldest son out of the house as well.

"Luckily it wasn't as bad as it could have been," said Dunne.

Feeling of guilt

Dunne's son admitted to playing with matches in his room.

"He has a lot of guilt. He feels quite badly," said Dunne, adding that the main outcome is that everyone is OK, and that it's important he learns from the incident.

"I think for a 10-year-old, it's a little harder to process," she said. 

"You can tell him as much as you like that, you know, that 'it was an accident, it's OK, we're all safe, everybody got out OK,' but like anybody, you have that sense of responsibility."

Safety message

Even though it's a common practice for parents to teach their children about the dangers of fire and playing with matches, Dunne said it's also important to teach about getting help if something does happen.

Out of such a tragedy there's been an awful lot of positive, there's been an awful lot of good.- Wendy Dunne

"My son did something a little unusual. The first responders had told us that most times, children who do set fires run and hide," said Dunne.

"When it's accidental they think they're in trouble and had my child done that … we may not have gotten out as expeditiously and he would have been trapped in that bedroom."

Overwhelming support

Dunne has been back to her home and said the damage was mainly contained to her son's bedroom.

Heat and smoke also destroyed neighbouring rooms and most of the contents.

While it was very emotional to see the damage the flood of support that they have received from the community has helped tremendously.

"Out of such a tragedy there's been an awful lot of positive — there's been an awful lot of good," said Dunne.

In the first few hours, they had received donations of clothing from families connected to her son's Holy Heart of Mary hockey team.

The team has also organized a game against teachers on Friday. They're charging $5 per person and all proceeds wil go to the GoFundMe account that's been set up for the family.

Dunne's family has a new place to live and while it's going to take time for her son to get over what happened, she knows they're all going to be OK.

"It's a process and I'm sure that at the end of the day we will all come through this — and I'm fairly confident that he's not going to play with a match again."

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