One person died at a house fire in east Maple Ridge Saturday afternoon and one person was treated and released on scene for smoke inhalation. (Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS)

Whonnock man tried but could not save victim of Maple Ridge fire

Michel Lefebvre was among many who attempted to enter the burning building

Michel Lefebvre and his wife noticed the smoke as they were driving into the city from Whonnock Saturday afternoon to do some banking.

They thought who would be burning garbage at this time of the year.

But as they were coming down the hill at around 1:40 p.m. along Dewdney Trunk Road at 266 Street they saw a house on fire and immediately pulled over.

Lefebvre ran towards the house asking people standing around if anybody was inside.

“I could see the front of the house, the front side flames were shooting out of the windows and on the side of the house,” he said.

“One guy was looking at the front door and he wasn’t going to go in,” said Lefebvre.

READ MORE: One dead after house fire in rural Maple Ridge

So, Michel and another man ran to the back of the house and happened upon a man who lived in a fifth-wheel on the property. They asked him if anyone was still in the house and he replied that there were two people still inside.

Lefebvre ran up the back porch stairs to an open door yelling is anybody there. He could hear others in a car port yelling the same thing.

“I stepped towards the door and it was just black smoke. You couldn’t see like a foot in front of you, that’s how thick it was,” said Michel.

He crouched down by the door and yelled again, is anybody there. He even went down on his hands and knees, but there was no way he could enter, he said, the smoke was just too thick.

“The smoke and the smell and the heat,” he said, adding that he could see the flames inside the house through a window and was scared that the fire was going to flashover.

Lefebvre knew he couldn’t go any further because it was just too dangerous. He backed out and away from the door but not before inhaling a bit of the smoke.

He even warned others trying to help not to go in because of the danger.

“You know you wouldn’t last not even a minute, that’s how thick it (the smoke) was,” said Lefebvre.

After Lefebvre backed down the stairs again, he said, the windows started cracking and shattering. He went back to the man who lived in the fifth wheel, who was having an asthma attack, and stayed with him until emergency crews arrived on scene.

The man told Lefebvre that initially they had attempted to put out the flames with fire extinguishers but the flames went so fast.

“You felt really helpless,” said Lefebvre.

“You wanted to help but you knew you couldn’t because then you’ld be putting your own life at risk,” he added.

RELATED: Fire hits Maple Ridge Albion Industrial Area

The Maple Ridge Fire Department and the RCMP were still on scene Sunday afternoon.

“We have not even been in the house yet to even start working on the fire investigation,” said Maple Ridge Fire Chief Howard Exner.

“One of the big things that we have to do is make sure it is safe for us to go in the house because the house is badly damaged by the fire,” he said, adding that they have to come up with a safety plan to make sure they are safe operating inside of the structure.

Once they determine they can enter the building or even portions of the the building then they can begin doing their interior surveys, he said.

One person died and one person was treated on scene for smoke inhalation during the July 20 fire.

“As far as I know, nobody went to the hospital,” said Exner.

“It’s a difficult scene, obviously, because somebody succumbed during this event. We’re working hard to try and find out what the circumstances that would have led up to that,” Exner said.

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