Moncton firefighters share stories after surviving explosive fire
Published Tuesday, January 5, 2016 7:43PM AST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 6, 2016 8:15AM AST
Three firefighters who were engulfed by flames as they battled an early morning fire in Moncton on Monday say they’re lucky to be alive.
“The outcome could have been very, very tragic,” said firefighter Keith Guptill.
Guptill says he was at the top of his ladder when the fire exploded.
“I'm watching the roof and all of a sudden just this ball of fire came right at my face, right at my body,” he said. “It was just surreal.”
Adam Westfield was on a ladder on the other side of the building. He was tasked with opening a hole to let the smoke out.
His partner was on the roof when the fireball came roaring out of the building.
“I'm kind of paraphrasing, but I told my partner, 'We need to go now,’” said Westfield.
Both men were able to get out, but were far from safety.
“The heat was very intense, very quickly,” said Guptill. “It seemed to dissipate quite quickly. I looked at my gear and of course I'm looking to see, 'Am I burnt? Am I ok?”
“It only really sunk in when we were on our way down,” said Westfield. “And as soon as I entered that plume of super-hot gasses where it was a little too hot to handle,I basically put my arms on the side of the ladder and jumped down about 10 feet.”
Moncton Fire Chief Eric Arsenault says they’re considering the incident “a near miss.”
He says in his role as Chief, he’s responsible for making sure his firefighters have the best gear and training possible.
“Part of our protocol is to gather every firefighter, officer, that was involved in this fire together on the next shift and review the incident,” said Chief Arsenault.
Both Guptill and Westfield say they’re fine and won’t miss a shift. They say it was harder on their families to deal with what happened.
“My two daughters, they were in tears for a minute, as was my wife,” said Guptill. “My son, he didn't say too much. He came up and held me for a minute and said, ‘I'm glad you're ok, dad,’ as a 20-year-old son is going to do.”
Westfield is married and has a 17-month-old son. His wife is pregnant with the couple’s second child, who is due in two months.
“She told me she wants me to meet my daughter, so it was kind of heavy for me there for a second,” he said.
Chief Arsenault says the incident will be given a full review.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Jonathan MacInnis.