Nova Scotia

Man, 53, dead following house fire in Digby County

Nine regional fire departments were called to the fire Thursday afternoon in Smith's Cove, N.S. One man died, and a woman was injured.

Fire chief says man's wife is recovering in hospital

Smith's Cove fire chief Josh Snyder says supports are being set up for the first responders involved in the call. (Smith's Cove Fire Department/Facebook)

A 53-year-old man has died after a fire engulfed a home in the small Digby County community of Smith's Cove, N.S.

Smith's Cove fire Chief Josh Snyder said the department received a call at 2:24 p.m. AT on Thursday and was at the home within seven minutes. But when they arrived, the home was already engulfed in flames. 

"This one just was probably too far gone before we even got there," said Snyder. 

A 67-year-old woman was able to escape the fire and was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

But Snyder said the woman's husband was stuck inside. He tried to rescue the man. 

"I ran around to the back of the house and it was just the smoke and heat. If I were to go in it, I probably would not have been coming out. I could not get in," he said.

The man was later pronounced dead at the scene. 

"This type of thing, it's not supposed to happen," Snyder said. 

"Someone to die, someone perishing in a fire, that's not how it's supposed to go. This is not what we train for. This is not what we, as volunteers, want to happen."

Chief called for backup

The Digby RCMP detachment was also called to the scene shortly after 2 p.m.

Snyder said once he realized how difficult it would be to put out the fire, he called for backup from other local fire departments. Members from eight other departments ended up on scene.

"People were getting tired. People were sweaty, exhausted. You could just feel the exhaustion," said Snyder, adding that he kept calling more departments for help every 20 minutes or so. 

The fire was extinguished around 10 p.m. Snyder said they released the scene to RCMP and left.

But about an hour and a half later, the Smith's Cove Fire Department was called back to the scene by the RCMP. They discovered the fire had reignited in the home's attic. 

Snyder said all fire crews finally left the scene around 2:30 a.m. Friday.

Supports being offered

Snyder said his department doesn't often see fatal incidents like this.

He has made a request for Nova Scotia's critical incident stress management team and the local fire department chaplain to offer support to first responders.

"We're trying to get something put together very, very quickly so that we can do damage control as quickly as we can for people's mental health," he said. 

"We want people to be OK.... We can talk about it, you know, just what we felt, what we saw and that we're a family."

Cause under investigation

He said his department's chaplain has visited the woman who escaped the fire in hospital, where she is recovering. He said she seems to be "doing OK."

Snyder said the community is rallying around the first responders and the family who was impacted.

"Some people have sent messages [saying], 'Thank you. You guys did a wonderful job. Very fast response,'" he said, adding that others have offered support and housing for the family.

A news release from the RCMP said the cause of the fire is not known and is under investigation by the Mounties, the Nova Scotia Office of the Fire Marshal and the Nova Scotia Medical Examiner's Office.