The fire that destroyed two homes Friday night in Red Deer spread so fast there was not enough time for the smoke alarm to chirp.
Red Deer resident, Cal Keys, father of Kent, who lost one of the homes, said fortunately his daughter in law Carissa was standing at the kitchen window that night when she heard a pop.
“They were fortunate in that they could’ve all been dead, because the fire spread so fast, overtop, in the roof, that the smoke alarm did not even go off,” said Cal, speaking of his son, daughter in law and two grandchildren, Jaxson, four, Raya, two.
“They only had time to grab the kids and were out of the house,” he said.
The family’s cat, Neko, about a year old, did not make it. Cal calls him “a handsome guy,” that family brought home about six months ago.
Firefighters were called to the “fully involved” blaze on Lancaster Drive just after 11 p.m. Two homes and a garage are completely destroyed by the fire.
A third home, on the east, has some damage said neighbour and homeowner Steve Dunn, who woke up to the loud pounding when crews instructed the family that they had to evacuate their home.
“We were out there till about 3 a.m.,” Dunn said Sunday, adding he was impressed with the effort by the firefighters who seemed “so calm throughout the process.”
On Sunday, deputy chief Chris Kearns said, there were no updates on the fire. Fire crews were on scene until about 5 a.m. and investigators were back on scene Saturday morning. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
The second family, whose home was also destroyed, made it out safe: Julie Anderson Castrillon, her husband Jesus Castrillon and her 20-year-old daughter Eva Anderson.
The three of them grabbed each cat (the family has three) and the dog and ran out the door at 215 Lancaster Drive.
The Red Deer wife said her husband saw flames out on the porch that night just as the family was getting ready to go to bed.
“Literally our house was gone in two minutes, I can’t even believe it, it was like the movie Backdraft or something, it was just everywhere,” she said.
“We just saw patches of fire (in the back porch area of the house) and it turned into a big blanket, and then in a big wall, and then the fire came from the outside onto the inside – like the walls of the inside of the house was just fire,” the woman explained.
“It was crazy.”
The Red Deer husband suffered some second degree burns on his hands – mainly his fingers – as he was trying to get the dog out of the house, while the wife had some minor blisters on her face as she bent down to grab one of the cats.
Both of the Red Deer families are relieved that their loved ones are safe.
“We live about three minutes away so when the call came, we got there pretty quick and just when I saw my son, my daughter in law walking downt he sidewalk with my two grandchildren, it was a sigh of relief, as long as they were OK, everything else was secondary,” said Cal.
Cal’s son and daughter in law who lost their newly renovated home were in shock when Cal found them.
“To see all of that go was very, very difficult for them,” the Red Deerian said.
The grandfather took the children home until the mom and dad could talk to the men in uniform. Since then the family has been staying with the grandfather.
Both families are focusing on rebuilding and have online fundraisers to help them out with necessities like clothing, shoes and toys.
Anderson Castrillon said the family didn’t even have time to put shoes on.
“We literally ran outside: no shoes, no socks, no jackets, we have nothing,” adding the family also lost their vehicle.
The family did find immediate shelter at a neighbour’s who offered their home until the family could figure out the next steps and talk to the authorities. The Anderson Castrillon have since been staying at a hotel.
Both families have insurance and believe their homes will be written off. They’re yet to go through the formal process.
Both families are in awe of the community support, especially during the pandemic, when many Alberta families are out of jobs.
Cal said the money will be useful as both Kent and Carissa will have to take time off work.