Thunder Bay

Woman breaks down door, saves teens from house fire at Big Grassy River First Nation

A woman from Big Grassy First Nation in northwestern Ontario broke down the door of her neighbour's home to rescue two teens from a house fire on Tuesday.

'I saw way too much smoke. I grabbed some dirty laundry from the floor and put it over my face'

Ivory Tuesday used an axe to break down the door and rescue two teens from a house fire at Big Grassy River First Nation. (submitted by Ivory Tuesday)

A woman from Big Grassy River First Nation (Mishkosiminiziibiing) in northwestern Ontario broke down the door of her neighbour's home to rescue two teens from a house fire on Tuesday night.

Ivory Tuesday, 30, said she was compelled to act after a 911 dispatcher told her no fire trucks would be sent from neighbouring municipalities, since there are no funding agreements in place. The First Nation's own fire truck is under repair.

She said she set aside her own fear after spotting flames through the window of her neighbour's house and hearing sounds of people inside.

"I was just thinking about them. I just wanted to get them out," she said. "I just had to take a deep breath and put it in the back of my mind that nobody wanted to help them."

Ivory Tuesday says she saw flames coming from this stove in her neighbour's home. (submitted by Ivory Tuesday)
Tuesday said she was able to open the kitchen window and reach through to turn on the faucet in an attempt to throw water at the flaming kitchen stove but the fire continued to burn.

A volunteer firefighter from the First Nation drove into the driveway, telling Tuesday the community's fire truck was in the shop for repairs.

'I screamed at him to get out of there'

That's when Tuesday said she decided to use her axe to break down the door.

"I kind of bludgeoned the door in the front, like as hard as I could and it finally opened up," she said. "One of the teens was lying up against the wall...so I screamed at him to get out of there."

A few other volunteer firefighters from the community had arrived and went into the home with Tuesday.

"I saw way too much smoke, so I grabbed some dirty laundry from the floor and put it over my face," she said.

Another teen was found and sent outside while Tuesday and the volunteers crawled through the house to make sure no one else was inside.

The teens were intoxicated, according to Tuesday, and Treaty 3 police eventually arrived and took them away.

The day after the fire, Tuesday said she was sworn in as a volunteer firefighter at Big Grassy First Nation and some people are calling her a hero on social media.

"I just feel like normal, like I just feel like that's what you're supposed to do," she said, adding that her experience as a skydiver likely helped keep her calm in the adrenaline-filled situation.

She said she remains shocked that neighbouring communities didn't send help.

The clerk at Lake of the Woods township, the closest municipality, told CBC News that its tiny volunteer department doesn't have the capacity to respond to calls at the First Nation.

Lake of the Woods township has about 250 full time residents and recently closed one of its two fire halls.

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