The family is safe, but their lives are forever changed.
On Sunday afternoon, the home of Brian and Diane Major of Morson filled silently with thick, black smoke. It took only 20 minutes for the home to be reduced to ash. In that 20 minutes, the family lost everything – except their lives.
“What matters to me is that we’re all safe. We all got out,” said Brian. “Things can be replaced. But a life? How can you replace that?”
It was a close call, though. The couple were at home with two sons, Isiah and Sai and three-year-old grandson Jeremiah, when Isiah, 9, noticed smoke.
“He started screaming Fire! Fire! Fire!’” recalled Brian. “He’s a hero. Without him, we might not have noticed until it was too late. We barely made it out.”
As Diane and the children left the home, Brian, a retired Treaty #3 police officer, started heading down the hall with a fire extinguisher. But what he saw was alarming. He was met with a thick ball of black smoke, travelling down the centre of the hall. But it wasn’t touching the walls or ceiling, so it wasn’t triggering the smoke alarms, he said.
“I’ve never seen anything like that. I didn’t know smoke could move like that,” he said. As a returned officer, safety is a priority, and his home had six working smoke alarms and a working carbon monoxide detector, none of which were triggered in time.
As Brian, who is an amputee, wheeled down the hall, he was overcome by the thick smoke, he said.
“Then someone grabbed me, and pulled me out of there,” he said. It was his son Sai, who had returned to rescue his dad.
The family watched as the home they’d known since 1986 burned within minutes. They were barefoot, with just the clothes on their backs, said Brian.
The event has left the whole family in shock. Their grandson still cries and feels scared of fire, said Brian.
He wants everyone to be aware that even if you think your home is protected, and you follow every rule, smoke alarms can fair.
“The smoke, it want to consume you,” he said.
He encourages everyone to check their smoke alarms, and install one lower than the ceiling, to ensure even strange movements are caught in time.
“We barely made it out. Barely,” he said.
The family has been staying at the Super 8 in Fort Frances, while they see what the next move will be. In the few days they’ve been there, they’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of the community. The boys’ teachers took up a collection, chipping in for an $800 gift card to help them replace clothing and buy food. Local businesses are also chipping in to help.
A GoFundMe page has been set up by family friends, to help offset the costs of starting over. To help out, visit https://gf.me/u/x7zpfh.
“People have been so generous,” said Brian. “I have no words. No words at all. They’re just so generous.”