Early morning fire forces Surrey family to jump from 3rd-storey window
SURREY, B.C. -- Several families are now homeless after an early morning fire ripped through a Surrey townhouse complex.
The flames broke out just before 3 a.m. near 68 Avenue and 145A Street.
"The fire alarm went off and I could see my window was red in colour because it's burning outside," said Gunaranjani Prabu, one of the residents.
She and her husband woke up her parents, as well as their two young sons.
"I opened the main door and I could see the smoke coming inside," said Prabu.
They couldn't get to the two lower floors of their home, so they decided to jump from the upstairs window.
Their backyard is on a hill, so the drop was about 20 feet to the pavement.
"We opened the window and I threw out my kids down," said Prabu Dhannraj, her husband.
"I saw my neighbours were standing right below there. I just threw my kids down there. We are so grateful to God that we are alive today," he said still shaken.
All six family members escaped with minor injuries.
They were treated for minor smoke inhalation, cuts and sprained ankles by paramedics on scene.
"I just wanted them to be alive, even if anything was broken, we could fix it," said Dhannraj.
All of their neighbours escaped relatively unscathed as well.
Fire crews arrived minutes later, upgrading the blaze to a second alarm.
By that point, three units were on fire.
It took 20 firefighters about an hour to contain the flames.
"This could have been way worse," said Spiro Pegios, battalion chief of the Surrey Fire Department.
"The fact that the crews were able to keep the damage as minimal say they did is only because we were alerted early enough."
Pegios says this story would have had a much more tragic ending had the families not had working smoking alarms.
"In this case, three o'clock in the morning, the only way they would know is if the fire got more into the structure and it might have been too late. The smoke alarm did everything it was supposed to do and allowed them to at least have a route out."
Prabu says she's grateful to her neighbours, police and fire for their quick thinking.
"It’s all God's grace that we are alive today," she said.
Investigators believe the fire started at the front of the building, between Prabu and her neighbour's front doors.
Charred pieces of the homes, melted garbage cans and scorched cars could be seen behind police tape Tuesday morning.
"The damage to the outside of the building was pretty extensive, but the structure itself is pretty sound," explained Pegios.
A third unit in that building was also damaged, although the family was able to return home after the flames were out.
"(The flames) were large, intense and there was a lot of smoke. Definitely not a small fire," said Nabil Valiulle, the homeowner.
"I'm grateful. I feel we are blessed in the sense that we could escape this especially with young children. All of use have young children," said Valiulle.
The head of the complex's strata said all of the victims have home insurance.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.