Lyle Johnson awoke to chaos.
“When I opened my eyes, I thought the whole house was on fire – it was a loud and violent fire,” he recalls.
Johnson, 38, his common-law wife Kelly Bouzane, 36, and their two sons, Dylan, 14, and Bobby, 6, narrowly escaped the blaze which destroyed their Oyster River home early Monday morning.
“We barely got out of there with our underpants on…it seemed the whole house was made of paper,” says Johnson.
Their youngest son Bobby is now known as “hero” after his screams and quick action awoke the family from their slumber.
“He is our hero, if he had slept for another minute…” says Johnson, his voice trailing off.
It was around 3:30 a.m. when Bobby awoke in his main floor bedroom to the sight of flames licking up one wall. At the foot of the wall was an electric baseboard heater – the only one in the house – and it’s believed a short started the blaze.
Terrified, the boy began screaming, but he never panicked. Instead, he bolted from his burning room, the flames singeing the back of his head, as he ran up the stairs to alert his parents and older brother.
“That was his number-one priority, to get everyone up,” says Johnson. “We’re very grateful for our little guy – just six years old, that’s pretty incredible.”
With the flames growing and the whole house crackling, mom and Bobby ran down the stairs and out the side door. Johnson wasn’t far behind as he ran to Dylan’s room and was prepared to grab his son and leap out the second floor window, but instead they made it down the stairs, through the thick smoke and past the flames to get safely outside.
However, in the smoke, Dylan went out the front door while dad went out the side. Johnson panicked, screamed for his son, and was about to run back into the burning home when he saw Dylan safe in the front yard.
“It would have been crazy to go back in,” says Bouzane, “it was just flames.”
The family dog Lucy safely escaped too, but there was little firefighters could do to save the two-storey wood frame house at 2259 Fearon Rd.
Strong, swirling winds fanned the flames as members of the Oyster River Volunteer Fire Department contained the blaze to the house, ensuring that flying embers didn’t ignite neighbouring homes.
It took several hours to fully extinguish the smouldering beams and after a thorough examination by a fire inspector Tuesday, it was determined the house should be demolished.
Mom and dad are grateful everyone is okay, but they had no fire insurance and have lost almost all their belongings including a computer which held all the information for their business, Clean Sweep Chimneys.
The heat also melted the front of Johnson’s work truck which is also a write-off.
“We’re very grateful for the firefighters who saved a few photo albums for us. It means a lot,” says Bouzane.
The couple is also grateful for the tremendous support they’re receiving from family, friends and neighbours. But Johnson admits it’s been difficult receiving so much when they’re used to giving.
“To be on the receiving end – and I didn’t think I would say this – is hard, but we’re extremely appreciative,” he says. “Overall we’re doing okay. So many people are helping that it’s hard to focus on the bad.”
The couple did get some good news from the bank that a two-year mortgage would be extended. Another neighbour is donating the use of a machine to tear down the home, while Walco Industries is donating a dump bin, and other friends have set up various ways to donate to the family (see below).
It’s been a tumultuous week for the family and the couple know they should have done a few things better: Make sure you have working smoke alarms, don’t procrastinate on house insurance, and make sure you have thorough escape plan, they advise others.
“It was crazy and it was scary and it happened so fast, maybe 30 to 40 seconds…it’s incredible we’re sitting here,” says Bouzane.
- Donations of items can be dropped off with their friends, the Robertsons, at 2239 Fearon Rd. Oyster River and in Courtenay at 2603B Tater Place.
- The Return It Centres in Courtenay and Campbell River have an account set up in the family’s name.
- Cash donations can also be dropped off to the family’s trust at TD Bank.
- You can also go online and to www.youcaring.com and search for “Lyle Johnson.”
- Links are also available on Facebook: www.facebook.com/HelpingKellyandLyle