Nova Scotia

6 escape suspicious Glace Bay apartment fire

Tenants narrowly escaped a suspicious fire at an apartment building in Glace Bay early Friday, police say.
Police say the fire is suspicious because it started at the front door. ((Yvonne Leblanc-Smith/CBC))

Half a dozen people narrowly escaped a suspicious fire at an apartment building in Glace Bay early Friday.

Cape Breton Regional Police said the fire blocked the only entrance to the building, so a man and woman trapped inside had to climb out a window.

"This was certainly a close call for these two people," said Staff Sgt. Robert Walsh.

Police and firefighters arrived at 676 Main St. shortly after 1:30 a.m.

The man and woman were on the second floor. A quick-thinking neighbour threw something at a window to wake them up, then put up a ladder to a back window. The couple were able to climb down to safety.

Deputy fire marshall Paul MacCormick sniffing the dirt for evidence of accelerant at the site of Friday's fire. ((Yvonne Leblanc-Smith/CBC))

"It's just very fortunate that the neighbour had (the) presence of mind to realize that there was a ladder nearby and it was used by police and this neighbour to assist them in getting these people out," said Walsh.

Walsh said the man and woman were covered in soot. They were treated in hospital for smoke inhalation and released.

James and Thelma Knox, who also live on the second floor, say the elderly couple was trapped.

"They were really screaming, they were terrified," said James Knox.

"I could see them and I kept telling them to calm down, help is on the way," said Thelma Knox.

The Knoxes were also saved from the fire by neighbour Michael MacDonald.

"Michael MacDonald woke us up last night pounding on the door and we went down to answer... my husband went down to answer it. He told us the house was on fire and it was the apartment next door to us that was on fire and we just  grabbed clothes and ran. That was it. I've got cats over there and I don't even know if they are alive or not," said Thelma Knox.

MacDonald said he noticed smoke and flames from his front window, and a burning canister right at the front door.

"There was flames shooting out of it. It kind of looked like one of those old propane tanks that they used on camping Coleman stoves. They're round. That's what it looked like," said MacDonald.

Deputy fire marshall Paul MacCormack said he hasn't found any evidence of a canister, but is collecting the dirt and debris from the charred front door.

"That soil, the police have seized that. That will be sent to a crime lab to determine if there is any trace evidence of ignitable liquid," said MacCormack.

 Police are also sifting through the evidence, knocking on doors and talking to witnesses.

Several other apartment units in the building were vacant.

Police said the fire is considered suspicious because it started at the front door.

The police arson and forensic identification units will help the fire marshal with the investigation. Police are looking into a possible connection to a recent drug bust in the building.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 902-563-5151 or CrimeStoppers.