Man in critical condition after fire
DOMINION — A 73-year old Dominion man was in Glace Bay Hospital in critical condition after police rescued him from a house fire early Tuesday morning.
“The smoke alarm did its job, it woke up a person who was sleeping,” said Vince Penney, deputy fire marshal.
“ Why he is alive is because of the smoke alarm, his neighbour and police.
“He is now in the hospital suffering from severe smoke inhalation.”
Const. Jim Taylor of the Cape Breton Regional Police Service forensic identification unit said it was an accidental fire.
“Electrical can’t be ruled out as the cause — electrical is a possibility.”
The fire broke out at 1:45 a.m. at the home of David Beaton at 36 Villa Nova Rd.
Penney said although they haven’t been able to talk to Beaton yet, they believe from the evidence at the scene he was in bed on the second floor when the fire broke out on the main floor in a small sitting room at the back of the house.
“It appears the smoke alarm woke him up and he came down the stairs trying to get out.”
However, when Beaton got to the door at the bottom of the stairs, which opens into the sitting room, fire blocked his escape, Penney said.
“The heat would be like putting your hand inside an oven,” he said.
“He probably took a breath or two and that was it.
“He only made it to the back door, where he was rescued.”
Penney, who was sifting through debris with Taylor on Tuesday afternoon, said the fire started near a chair in the sitting room.
Penney showed reporters at the scene the Polyethylene foam — commonly found in chair cushions — explaining how a fire liquifies, causing heavy, black, toxic smoke.
He said the appearance of the room indicates it was filled with smoke.
“Smoke is a silent killer; he is lucky to be alive,” Penney said.
“ We will be sifting through debris and documenting things.”
It was a traumatic run of events for Margaret Jean Gillis, a LPN at Taigh Na Mara in Glace Bay, who lives next door.
Gillis said it was lucky she happened to be up late the night of the fire.
“I was on my way to bed when I looked over at David’s house and thought it was funny his kitchen lights were on so late. Then I noticed smoke in his kitchen.” Gillis called 911. Members of the Cape Breton Regional Police Service forced the locked door open and saw beaton’s foot through the heavy smoke. The officers grabbed the foot and pulled him onto the back step.
The officer began CPR on Beaton, assisted by Gillis, until EHS arrived.
She said Beaton, his wife and two children moved beside them about 30 years ago and were great neighbours.
Beaton was living alone after his wife was recently moved to a nursing home.
She brushed off the notion of being a hero.
“ You do what you have to do. It must have been the nursing in me.”
Neil MacNeil, fire chief of the Dominion Volunteer Fire Department, said about 15 firefighters responded to the call.
MacNeil said the neighbor saved Beaton’s life.
“If not for the neighbour calling police, it would have taken us longer to get there and he would have been dead.”
He said the firefighters did a great job containing the fire to the one room.
There was smoke damage to the rest of the house.
The fire department remained on the scene for about an hour.
David MacDonald of Glace Bay, a nephew of Beaton, said his uncle is in the intensive care unit at Glace Bay Hospital.
“He has a lot of smoke damage to his lungs. They are saying it is 50/50 right now. A lot of family are at the hospital. ”
MacDonald took at look at the fire damage at the scene.
“I feel bad, it is awful. There is a lot of smoke damage.”
Lynn Gilbert, assistant to the director of public affairs at the Cape Breton District Health Authority, said the man remains in critical condition.
Const. Jim Taylor of the Cape Breton Regional Police Service forensic identification unit, left, Vince Penney, deputy fire marshal, sift through the debris of a house fire that sent one man to hospital in critical condition early Tuesday morning.