Firefighters are praising the quick actions of witnesses for ensuring everyone escaped from a large fire at a Macleod Trail strip mall on Saturday afternoon.
"They're heroes," said District Chief Wayne McQueen.
"We had three people going door-to-door getting people out of the building who had no idea the roof was on fire. They saved some lives for sure. A lot of people in there had no idea there was a fire going on over their heads and if wasn't for those people knocking, going door-to-door, it could have been a lot worse."
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Mackie Martineau is one the three who jumped into action just before 1 p.m.
Martineau — who runs a youth program at the nearby Calgary Dream Centre — saw flames pouring from the Urban Square strip mall at 4515 Macleod Trail S.W. so he grabbed a fire extinguisher and raced across the street.
"I went up the stairs, by then the fire was already going pretty good," he said. "I wasted the fire extinguisher, saw that wasn't going to work so I started ripping doors open and telling people to get the hell out."
Kaden Clouston, 19, also raced over from the Dream Centre to help.
"It's difficult to process, it's something you never expect to happen," he said. "My instincts just kicked in and something told me, 'You need to go over there and help.'"
Rushing upstairs, he opened the door to a tattoo parlour, warning the people inside, who had no idea of the danger unfolding around them.
"The gentleman who was getting the tattoo came up to me and said, 'If it wasn't for you, we wouldn't have made it,' and that's something that's going to stick with me the rest of my life," he said.
At one point, Martineau found himself and a woman trapped by flames and smoke on the second floor.
"I got her to jump over the railing and some people came underneath us and helped her drop down, then I dropped down myself," he said. "Everyone got out OK, that's what matters."
Martineau took the accolades in stride.
"I just wanted to get everybody out, the fire was an obstacle, not a threat," he said.
"I just did what anybody should do, help out, not stand there with their phone out."
Nine people were treated by paramedics as a precaution but no serious injuries were reported, said McQueen.
Traffic was backed up as Macleod Trail had to be shut down in both directions between 42nd Avenue and 46th Avenue S.W. while firefighters battled the flames.
Jordon Paupst-Wall, who lives nearby and also banged on doors, questioned why fire alarms didn't go off sooner.
"If the fire alarm went off when it should have, when the fire started, you would have thought they'd be able to get off the second floor without having to jump," he said.
The Macleod Trail blaze was the second fire in Calgary on Saturday.
Just after noon, firefighters were called to the 7000 block of 23rd Street S.E. where they found a detached garage in flames, which were spreading to the upper floors of a nearby home. The flames were quickly knocked down and the home searched. No one was inside at the time.
Investigators are now searching for a cause to both fires.