On Tuesday, April 12 the Carleton Place Fire Department responded to a structure fire at a multi-residential house with two people confirmed to be trapped on the second floor.
At the same time, another significant fire event was occurring in Pakenham in the Municipality of Mississippi Mills where Carleton Place firefighters and five other departments were on the scene fighting a large fire which left the Carleton Place Fire Department with less staff than usual.
When Fire Chief Pascal Meunier arrived as the first Fire Officer on the scene, heavy flames and smoke were coming from the lower level of the building and had already reached the second floor. Chief Meunier was met by OPP Constable Beth Hollihan, who was already working on evacuating the building. She updated the Chief on the situation and locations of residents and was already working on crowd control. While doing all of this, she was also coaching and giving a new police officer, Officer Dan Pasieka, direction.
When the first pumper arrived on scene, firefighters caught a fire hydrant and set it up. Chief Meunier requested that Officer Pasieka help him grab the ladder from the pumper and carry it to the backside, second-storey window where one tenant was trapped and one tenant was waiting at the window surrounded by smoke and flames nearby. Officer Pasieka didn’t hesitate and immediately assisted with the set up of the ladder to support the Chief during the rescue of the first tenant.
As the first tenant was being brought down the ladder, Firefighters Jess Johnson and Dave MacFadyen, also a Fire Captain, and Officer Hollihan came around the rear of the building joining Officer Pasieka and Chief Meunier. It should be noted that Firefighters Johnson and MacFadyen had just completed their mandatory NFPA Firefighter Levels 1 and 2 certification earlier that day.
Chief Meunier advised the firefighters that there was still one person trapped inside; and had them ascend the ladder and enter the room headfirst through the window. Once inside, they realized that the occupant had mobility issues and that this might present them with a bigger challenge than they thought. By now, the fire was directly below them and had started to ignite objects in the next room. After assessing the situation, they realized there was no way out other than the window.
As they were preparing to bring the tenant out of the building, Firefighters MacFadyen and Johnson realized things were becoming even more difficult when it became clear that the tenant did not understand how dangerous the situation had become and he lay down on his bed. Knowing that they did not have much longer to get out, the firefighters explained to him the imminent danger and physically pulled him from the bed so that he was upright. With the assistance of another firefighter, Officer Hollihan and Officer Pasieka, they were able to get the man out of the window and down the ladder to safety.
The professionalism and leadership of Officer Hollihan from the minute that the Fire Chief arrived on scene was exemplary. The calm demeanour she demonstrated to the new OPP Officer recruit, and the assistance she offered and gave our firefighters during this event was greatly appreciated and integral to the rescue operation.
Officer Pasieka’s quick response to the request for assistance had a direct effect on the positive outcome of the rescue of both residents. His knowledge, experience, and professionalism during the rescue of the two (2) tenants and during the fire itself were remarkable.
Firefighter MacFadyen and Firefighter Johnson, despite only having completed their full training earlier that day, showed exceptional courage that night. Working together with clear thinking and determination, they were able to secure the safety of a tenant who might otherwise have perished.
And finally, Chief Meunier was the calm voice that allowed all of the moving parts at this fire scene to work in tandem. His experience and leadership ensured that everyone involved remained safe, and that the best possible outcome was achieved.
For these reasons, awards of bravery were presented to Fire Chief Pascal Meunier, Firefighter Dave MacFadyen, Firefighter Jess Johnson, Officer Beth Hollihan, and Officer Dan Pasieska.