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Chilliwack teen first on fire scene

A Chilliwack teenager on his way home Saturday stopped to alert residents to a fire in a townhouse on Corbould Street.

Fortunately, no one was home in the unit where the fire started, but a pet dog inside did not survive.

"That makes me feel sick," 19-year-old Michael Thibodeau said when told later about the dog's fate.

"I could hear what sounded like a dog yelping," he recalled. "I would have gone inside, but the cops wouldn't let me."

After calling the fire department, Thibodeau started knocking on doors of the two-storey townhouse and helping senior residents get a safe distance away from the flames.

Chilliwack fire officials said no one was injured, and damages are limited to the unit where the fire started at about 4 p.m.

"Unfortunately, the (homeowner's) dog didn't make it," Assistant Fire Chief Ian Josephson said.

He said the speed of the fire observed by Thibodeau was probably due to windows breaking and drawing oxygen to feed the flames.

But firefighters were on the scene just minutes after the fire call, and were able to stop the fire from spreading to neighbouring units.

"The guys managed to hold (fire damage) to the one unit," Josephson said, as a full crew of firefighters was already at the main fire hall when the fire call came in.

Thibodeau said he had just turned onto Corbould Street at about 4 p.m. when he saw smoke from the fire rising into the sky.

"It was like a huge, black cloud," he said.

And by the time he reached the townhouse unit, the whole structure was engulfed in flames.

"It was almost like an explosion," he said.

Thibodeau said he yelled inside the burning unit, but no one answered, so he called the fire department and started knocking on neighbours' doors, most of whom were seniors.

An RCMP youth academy graduate, Thibodeau said his training there probably helped him keep a cool head in an emergency situation.

"I probably wouldn't have reacted the way I did, going to each door to make sure (the residents) were secure," he said.

But he believes his motivation to help others in a crisis would have been the same.

Thibodeau is still interested in a career in policing or corrections, but in the meantime he's started up his own business - Michael's Interior Detailing - and he hopes to soon have enough money saved to put a downpayment on his own house.

 

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