Residents escape burning building; some jumping from second floor

·3 min read

Lawrence and Krista Raynor were watching a movie with two visiting nieces late Friday evening at their home on Broadway in Woodstock when the couple thought they heard sounds from outside, including calls for help.

"The sounds weren't coming from the movie," Krista said.

Lawrence said they looked outside to see concerned neighbours gathering around as flames and smoke rose from the apartment building next to him.

"It was just glowing," Krista said.

Lawrence said he rushed out, realizing people remained inside the burning building.

As Lawrence immediately rushed to help, Krista said she called 911, although she believed somebody had already placed the emergency call.

With the flames rising from the back of the building, Lawrence said he kicked in a door at the front and yelled for everyone to get out.

Lawrence said he then saw a man looking out from a second-storey window.

"I told him to 'hang and jump,' said Lawrence.

Unable to break his fall, Lawrence said the man sustained what he believed were minor injuries.

Lawrence then noticed the man's wife, with her face blackened by the spreading smoke, put her head out the window.

He gave her the same instructions. This time, Lawrence was able to help break the impact of the fall.

Lawrence said he believed everyone got out safely when he spoke to the River Valley Sun early Saturday morning.

Krista said a few pets might have been left behind but wasn't sure.

Woodstock Fire Chief Harold McLellan said his department received the fire call at 10:57 p.m.

He said the first firefighters arrived on the scene to find flames rising from the back of the structure.

McLellan said that with an interior attack not possible, fire crews worked externally to bring the blaze under control. He said that upon arriving on the scene, he immediately called the Hartland Fire Department to ask for its ladder truck.

He said the ladder truck arrived quickly, allowing firefighters to pour water onto the top of the two-and-a-half-story building, limiting the fire's spread to neighbouring buildings.

He said homes on either side of the burning apartment building sustained damage, including melted vinyl siding.

McLellan said the flames travelled quickly through the older "balloon structure" building. After discussing the situation with the Fire Marshal's Office and others, the chief said they called in an excavator to demolish the building in another effort to keep the fire from spreading to nearby homes.

McLellan said the Woodstock Police Force, Ambulance N.B. and N.B. Power attended the scene.

He said the Woodstock Police Force looked after the apartment building residents, including making arrangements to find shelter and support.

He said power utility staff cut off power to the burning building and neighbours.

Lawrence Raynor said utility crews quickly restored power to their home immediately after firefighters and the excavator operator eliminated the fire danger. His wife Krista said their home remains without an internet connection, but she could recharge her phone with the power restored.

Lawrence said they would need the phone as they attempt to find insurance coverage for damage to their home.

In addition to the melted siding, the fire and falling structure damaged the portion of the handmade high wooden fence running along the property line between the two structures.

Lawrence expressed pride in the solidly built fence which surrounded his property. He described the fence as a personal project from start to finish, beginning with cutting the cedar for the lumber.

As she sat on her front step shortly before 8 a.m. Saturday morning, occasionally talking to neighbours or passersby, Krista said she still had not gone to bed.

She said they had her nieces' father pick up the stressed-out girls after the fire began Friday night. By Saturday morning, the Raynor's focus switched to arranging repairs to their house.

McLellan said the fire started at the back of the apartment building, but the cause remains under investigation.

Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun