Quick-thinking neighbours save Little Current home from a fiery fate

Damage to the back of a Little Current home could have been a whole lot worse if it weren’t for quick-thinking neighbours. photo by Alicia McCutcheon

LITTLE CURRENT – A fire that erupted on the back porch of a Meredith Street home in Little Current could have been far worse if it weren’t for the actions of some quick-thinking neighbours.

On Saturday evening, Charlene Elliott and Jim Mortimer said they could notice the smell of what seemed like burning garbage, but didn’t think much more of it before they got in their car and drove two streets over. What the couple didn’t know was that the smell that was wafting their way was actually coming from their back deck. A friend who had stopped in for a physically-distanced backyard visit had had a cigarette during that visit, Mr. Mortimer told The Expositor. The couple, both non-smokers, had provided the friend with a receptacle for the butts, but, unknowingly, it had caught fire.

Neighbours two doors down, Jeni and Evan Farquhar, told The Expositor they were on their back deck, enjoying the beautiful spring weather when they caught a whiff of what Ms. Farquhar described as “a bad smell.” The smell was pervasive and worrying enough that she decided to peer over the fence to see if she could spot its origin, and that’s when she saw the fire. “It looked like the entire deck was on fire.”

Ms. Farquhar alerted passersby Melissa Cheng and her partner Corey Karn to what she had just seen and the trio ran to the scene of the fire and immediately began searching for a means to put it out. Not able to find a hose, and seeing that no one was home, the group began to douse the fire with jugs of water poured from the kitchen sink. Mr. Karn also removed the couple’s barbecue propane tank from the fire’s reach.

Ms. Farquhar explained that the smoke was thick from the small but mighty fire and she began to worry for her health, crediting Ms. Cheng’s dogged determination in seeing the fire extinguished, despite breathing in heavy smoke. “She wasn’t going to give up,” she said of Ms. Cheng’s efforts.

“It was a community effort,” Ms. Farquhar added. “We really worked together.”

Sabrina Ferguson said she could see people running all over the street from the vantage point of her father’s home just up the street. Her first thought was, ‘that’s weird,’ she admitted to The Expositor, but when she heard someone use the word “fire,” she and sister Ava sprang into action.

“The first thing I thought of was their cats,” Ms. Ferguson said.

She recounted running into the home, which was filled was smoke by this time, and seeing other neighbours running in and out in sort of a bucket brigade. Ms. Ferguson’s family also hopped into action and dragged the patio furniture away from the fire to save it from melting. Meanwhile, Ava’s mom Cheryl Draper got in her car and began to search for her neighbour’s vehicle to alert them to what was happening.

The Ferguson sisters began to frantically look for the pets and were successful in finding one of the cats, which was hiding under a bed, “and I’ve got the scratches to prove it!” Sabrina Ferguson laughed. “But it was all worth it. I would do it again in a heartbeat.” The terrified kitty was taken next door and placed in a cat cage to await its owners’ return. (The second cat was later found and in good health.)

The fire department arrived shortly after the call was made, but the fire had been extinguished by the time crews were on-scene.

Ms. Ferguson said “it was really cool to see” the neighbours all coming together to work in tandem to save the couple’s house from being fully engulfed. Ms. Elliott and Mr. Mortimer just moved to the neighbourhood from South Baymouth in February.

Some of the soffit was completely melted away, with the patio door ruined and scorch marks can be seen on the pebble dash. The back deck suffered a fair amount of charring, too. Mr. Mortimer said that if it wasn’t for plywood underneath the soffit, the roof would likely have caught fire.

The couple is overwhelmed with the kindness of their new neighbours, and their new neighbourhood, and can’t say enough about their heroic actions. 

“Our neighbours, all around us, are fabulous,” Ms. Elliott told, The Expositor.

Ms. Elliott has faced her fair share of fires over the years, the most recent in 2008 when the Island Fish and Chips restaurant and accompanying post office in South Baymouth was by fire. Needless to say, hearing that there was a fire at her new home caused her heart to race.

“They are amazing, amazing people,” Ms. Elliott said of her neighbours. “I think they’re wonderful.”

The couple is excited for the day when they can invite them over for a housewarming party that will double as a thank you.