Nova Scotia

Woman describes family's 'nerve-racking' escape from fire with minutes to spare

Janelle Sparks said her neighbour climbed over the barrier separating the deck of the duplex, went through her patio door and ran up the stairs to where Sparks and her family were sleeping. It may have saved their lives.

'From the time ... the house was pretty much engulfed it was maybe five-to-10 minutes'

Janelle Sparks, left, and her fiancé, Addison Eldridge, were able to escape the fire with their two children and family dog. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

A Windsor, N.S., woman and her family who lost everything in a devastating fire on Thursday says the four of them escaped the flames with minutes to spare.

"From the time we all got off the deck to the time that the house was pretty much engulfed it was maybe five-to-10 minutes," Janelle Sparks told CBC's Maritime Noon.

She said her neighbour, Denise, got her own four kids to safety and then climbed over the barrier separating the deck of the duplex. She went through the patio door and ran up the stairs to where Sparks and her family were sleeping and warned them of the fire. 

"She came in yelling that the car out front was on fire," said Sparks. 

"I don't want to think about what could have happened had she have not came up and woken us up."

No one was injured in the fire though everyone was examined at the scene. (Donna Clouston)

The fire started in a 2018 Hyundai Elantra that was parked in front of the duplex, Windsor fire Chief Jamie Juteau said. Transport Canada is now investigating.

Earlier this month, Hyundai Auto Canada announced it was recalling more than 255,000 Santa Fe Sport, Sonata and Tucson models from various years in order to provide software updates that may detect potential problems before an engine fails.

CBC's Go Public has reported that some Hyundai models have burst into flames, though Transport Canada said it has had no previous fire reports involving 2018 Elantra models.

'You could hear the burning'

Sparks said the fire had not yet reached the house when they first woke up.

"You couldn't really smell the smoke. You could hear the burning, like the crackling and the windows being blown out of the car by that point but it wasn't, it didn't reach the house yet."

She called 911. Sparks and her fiancé, Addison Eldridge, then dressed her boys, ages five and six months, put the baby in a car seat and then went out on the back deck since the front of the house had begun to burn.

The fire started in a 2018 Hyundai Elantra parked in front of the house. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

She said the drop from her deck is about 2.5 metres to the ground.

Sparks said Eldridge first passed the five-year-old to first responders on the ground. She said a paramedic standing on a shed next to the deck took the baby in the car seat and handed the car seat to another first responder on the ground.

"I mean it was it was nerve-racking but because of the way that my fiancé handed them down it wasn't it wasn't like you had to toss," she said.

"It wasn't all over the place like — pretty much like if there was a perfect way for something like this to go."

House a total loss

Sparks said Eldridge was also able to get the family dog out of its kennel and pass the animal down to rescuers.

Then it was time for Sparks and Eldridge to get off the deck.

"But as my fiancé was ripping the side [of the deck] down off the back. He actually fell down with the deck — mind you he's completely fine," she said.

The fire started in a 2018 Hyundai Elantra parked in front of the house, say fire officials. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

The house is a total loss, said Sparks. She said it will be torn down on Monday. She said she's thankful everyone got out safely.

"Everyone's good. My five-year-old is actually back to school today … and he's honestly handling it probably the best out of all of us. But you know when you have kids in this kind of situation you just gotta keep it together for them," she said.

A GoFundMe for the family has raised more than $2,400 as of Friday afternoon. Sparks and Eldridge say they're incredibly thankful for their neighbour alerting them, the work of the first responders as well as the support they've received from the community.

"Everybody's out, that's all that matters. Everything else is just material that can be replaced. It's scary getting your family out of a situation like that," Eldridge said.

The Canadian Red Cross has the family staying in a motel in Windsor where their dog can also stay. Sparks said a family friend has offered her family an apartment to stay in until they can find something more suitable.

With files from Maritime Noon, Paul Palmeter