Nova Scotia

Explosion triggered fire that sent family of 5 jumping out window

Five family members are in hospital after jumping out of a second-storey window to escape a fire that tore through their townhouse in Dartmouth, N.S., early Friday.

Doors and windows blown across the street in blast from recently inspected furnace room

Firefighters spent about five hours getting the fire at the Dartmouth, N.S., townhouse under control. A family of five escaped. (Nikolas C Steen/Facebook)

An explosion started a fire that sent five family members leaping out of a second-storey window from their townhouse in Dartmouth, N.S., early Friday.

"The neighbours just started coming out of the window," said Brandon Marshall, who lives across the street from the home on Princess Margaret Boulevard.

Marshall's wife woke him up after she smelled smoke. He went outside to see what was happening and spotted the family fleeing the fire.

The family tossed a mattress onto the ground and then jumped out of the window onto it. 

"As I rushed outside, there was the family jumping out the window, the second-storey window, because the fire had literally engulfed the whole basement and whole first storey of their house," said Marshall.    

Furnace recently inspected

​Marshall said the family is from central Africa and neither parent speaks much English. A neighbour said the daughter is about 10 and the sons about seven and four. Their names have not been released. 

Four other people were displaced as the fire affected three units in the eight-unit townhouse, the Canadian Red Cross said. The fire started around 2 a.m., according to Lloyd Currie, a division commander with Halifax Fire and Emergency. He didn't know the extent of the family's injuries.

This mattress was found at the fire scene. The plaid fabric on it is a singed shirt. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

Deputy Fire Chief Roy Hollett said one adult suffered serious burns. "The evidence that showed an explosion had occurred was the door and the windows were blown across the street," he said. 

Neighbours said it was the father who was seriously burned. He remains in hospital.  

"It started in the furnace room and the one adult who was seriously burned was in that room," Hollett said. "We don't know what happened with the furnace. It was inspected within the last two to three days and we do have paperwork confirming it was in good working order. It's a puzzle and we're trying to put the pieces together." 

New to the neighbourhood

Rowena Hardy said the family moved into the neighbourhood several months ago. The three small children always greet her daughter with hugs and smiles, she said. 

"Today when we got up and looked out our window, and this is what we see and we know those kids aren't there. So you don't really need to know a lot about a family in order for them to be missed when they're not here. And their pain is all of our pain," she said.

"To come out and see all these neighbours praying, crying and in shock — and even just the firemen. We actually saw a couple firemen kneel down and catch their breath because it was so hot."

Rowena Hardy's home is just steps from away from the fire. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

Family rehoused in furnished unit

Julie Crowell lives three doors down. Her children play with the children who fled the fire and said it was a heartbreaking situation. 

"The mattress that they jumped on was just a crib mattress. I have no idea how they got it out the window or how a grown man fit through that tiny window," she said.   

"They're adorable, they're always really kind to each other. And they tattle on each other sometimes, but it's just to keep everybody in line. They all play really well together, and they're the sweetest little please-and-thank-you children you'll ever meet."

Jonathan Schneider is general manager of Universal Realty Group, which owns the building. He said the family has been relocated to a furnished unit and they've set them up with some supplies. He praised neighbours for helping out. 

When firefighters arrived at 186 Princess Margaret Blvd., all three floors of the townhouse were ablaze. The building is at the centre of a row of eight townhouses.

No one in any of the other units were injured, although one firefighter at the scene did hurt his back. 

Currie said the fire was serious. 

"Firefighters were on scene for approximately five hours, we had approximately 40 firefighters there and about eight units," he said. 

Currie said the townhouse where the fire started had extensive damage, and the two units on each side had smoke and water damage. 

"The centre unit has heavy fire damage to all three floors. Basically it was completely gutted," he said.  

The fire is now out and investigators are still trying to determine the exact cause.

A Go Fund Me page has been set up to help the family. 

The fire at 186 Princess Margaret Blvd. started overnight. The building is at the centre of a row of eight townhouses. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

With files from Brett Ruskin, Elizabeth Chiu and Maritime Noon