Twelve minutes was all it took for a fire that started in the basement to fully engulf the house.
Last Monday, May 16 Mike Ennis and his family had to move quickly to ensure they and their pets were safe after a fire completely swept through their home. The call came in to the Ponoka County East District Fire Department at approximately 8:30 p.m.
Before the call to 911, Ennis’ wife and daughter were in the kitchen when they smelled smoke and at about the same time the smoke alarms went off. The pair did a quick inspection in the basement and found Ennis’ daughter’s bedroom was on fire. They ran out, says Ennis, and asked the neighbours to call 911.
Ennis did his best to mitigate the flames by opening a fire extinguisher on the bedroom. From there he ran to get a hose with a friend to spray the bedroom from the outside window. It still wasn’t enough and the flames started to spread. He managed to close one gas valve before the flames got too hot. At that point, Ennis said his focus was to try and hose off his neighbour’s home as a strong wind was blowing in that direction.
“The wind did not help whatsoever,” said Ennis simply.
As the strong wind blew hot flames to the neighbour’s home, the fire department arrived. He praised the department for ensuring there was no damage to other homes and properties.
The fire couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Ennis had been working on his home for the last two months with a friend putting in long hours to renovate many aspects of the house. Luckily he has fire insurance. “The insurance is stepping right up just doing an excellent job.”
If the fire had spread to the neighbour’s home or if there was other damage, he may have been on the hook for the payments. As a word of caution, Ennis advises every homeowner have proper insurance.
Looking back, the biggest thing that stands out for him is being prepared. “I’ve definitely gotta get better firefighting attire,” he joked.
At the time of the fire, Ennis had on his shorts and flip flops and while he did what he could, he realized preparation is key. Had the fire happened in the middle of the night, it could have been a different story.
“As fast as this went up, we would have perished…I’m sure of it,” said Ennis.
His advice: “Be proactive. Talk with your kids. Make sure they know how to get out.”
The loss of the home, while challenging, has also brought out the best in friends, neighbours and complete strangers, says Ennis. There has been an outpouring of support with people donating clothes, food and other items. Along with the fire department, he praised companies that have offered support without question.
From Accede Energy donating a gen-set for power, garbage cans and bathrooms to Telus providing the family with smart phones ensuring they are connected to Redneck Barbie at Tru Value Hardware, Ennis is grateful for their support. While there are too many people to thank, he wanted to ensure they were recognized for donating much needed supplies.
“We are by far way more fortunate than the people in Fort McMurray,” said Ennis.
His family has been able to have trailers as temporary homes and things they need. His shop is intact and with insurance working to get things going again, Ennis said they are able to rebuild. It will be a long road but the family is safe, said Ennis.