Yellowknife first responders save the day, twice

Firefighter paramedics Anton Sergeev, left, and Dave Hampson responded to a medical call and were able to prevent a fire at the same time. Yellowknife Fire Division photos
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When Anton Sergeev and Dave Hampson arrived at a Yellowknife apartment complex February 14th for a medical call, they didn’t think they would have to use their firefighting skills.

As both are trained as Class 1 firefighter paramedics, Sergeev was able to launch into firefighter mode when he noticed smoke coming from a nearby apartment and a localized fire alarm going off. While Hampson stayed with the first call, Sergeev propped open the door carefully before entering the unit where the smoke was coming from.

“I quickly did a search, just to make sure no one was laying on the floor unconscious. After I searched the whole unit, I went to the kitchen and found an unattended pot that was burning.”

He saw many items beside the pot – oils, wooden spoons and other combustible materials. Sergeev was able to remove the pot and air out the unit before calling the fire department for next steps. He says it was mere minutes away from being a full structural fire.

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“People when they cook, they leave things like oils, wooden spoons, plastics, paper towls, and the fact that even the counter is dirty, everything absorbs heat,” he says of the fire danger associated with cooking.

“So the heat from that cook stove and pot oven, the radiant heat, would have transferred to all the objects around it – especially oils, they’re super flammable when it comes to a certain temperature – and then the whole kitchen just catches on fire. And the fire doubles every minute.”

The apartment complex Sergeev and Hampson attended that day was Dorset Apartments, one of the buildings in Yellowknife experiencing many false alarms. With this ongoing issue, Sergeev says the risk exists that people choose not to evacuate in situations like this – believing it is only a false alarm.

“Even if it’s a false alarm, you have to exit, you have to bring yourself to do those things, because you never know when the actual fire is going to be at your doorstep. That’s the scariest thing about the whole thing.”

In his seven years with the Yellowknife Fire Division, Sergeev has never attended a call quite like this. And while it’s unusual to have firefighters in a city also trained as paramedics, it’s something he is thankful for. “Most fire departments just do straight fire. The fact that we can attend scenes and assess the patient both from the fire side and the medical side and provide the best possible care for them, I think that’s amazing.”

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