Terry May’s years of firefighting came back in a flash and it likely saved a Petrolia woman’s life.
His granddaughter, who was expected to come for a visit, burst through the door of his Queen Street home April 3, saying there were flames in the window of the neighbour’s house.
May, who was a volunteer firefighter with the Oil Springs department for many years, ran down the street with his fiancé following him, telling others to call 9-1-1. Noris Lawrence went to the neighbours to tell them they were in danger from the fire – the siding on their house was melting.
With the front in flames, May went around to the back and saw his neighbour, 65 year-old Cathy Charlton, lying on the floor of her kitchen. “She was laying on the kitchen floor near the side door, so I went in and grabbed her and pulled her out.
“She was breathing… but she wasn’t coherent.”
“I think she was trying to get to the back door and the smoke overtook her. She had maybe been upstairs, I don’t know… she fell in the kitchen on the floor so I think she was trying to get to the back door,” said a still stunned May just moments after pulling the woman from the flames.
Paramedics took the still unidentified woman to the hospital and she was later transferred to a hospital in London to be treated for smoke inhalation and burns.
Charlton is back in Petrolia after recovering “quite well,” according to Petrolia/North Enniskillen Deputy Chief Tim Williams. She was released from hospital just days after the incident.
May, who had been on the Oil Springs Fire Department for 25 years as the deputy chief and training officer, says the lessons he learned kicked in.
“I kinda knew what to do.”
Petrolia/North Enniskillen Chief Lawrence Swift says firefighters also found two of Charlton’s cats upstairs hiding. A veterinarian is caring for them. The other cats – as many as six – are believed to have fled the blaze.
Swift says the dining room/living room area of the home was heavily damaged, but much of the upper floor has only smoke damage. Firefighters did have to take down the ceiling as the flames made their way to the attic along the outside of the home.
Swift says about $120,000 damage was done and he’s not certain the home can be rebuilt.
By Thursday, officials from the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office were on the scene, combing through the front room of the two-storey home trying to pinpoint the most likely cause. Investigators removed some items from the home, including some electrical items, for testing.