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UPDATED: Neighbour calls John St. residential fire 'absolutely devastating' for tenants (3 Photos)

The fire department says a smoke detector gave the family time to escape.

THUNDER BAY — The Thunder Bay Fire Service, the Office of the Fire Marshal and Thunder Bay Police are investigating a blaze that forced a family to flee for their lives in the middle of the night.

The incident occurred just after midnight Monday in a row housing complex on John Street.

A fire service spokesperson says the cause of the blaze is suspicious.

Neighbour Bonnie Alton said she called 911 after her husband spotted flames coming from the second-floor window of one of the units.

The tenants had already escaped unharmed, thanks to a working smoke detector..

"There was a lot of smoke everywhere. People were screaming. Children were sitting on the ground, crying," Alton said.

She said she scooped two youngsters up and gave the family shelter in her own home for the rest of the night, telling them "It's safe. You're safe."

Firefighters, who arrived to find flames and smoke pouring from the upper floor, checked the residence to make sure everyone had got out safely.

The occupants were checked over by paramedics.

A fire department spokesperson described damage to the unit's second level as substantial.

For Alton, making 911 calls about fires is not new.

In the 10 years she has lived in the John Street complex, there have been three fires.

"The second one was right across from me. I was also the 911 caller for that one. It's absolutely devastating when it happens," she said.

Alton believes the children's mother also experienced a previous fire "so that makes it even worse."

"They're a well-loved family here. We come together as a neighbourhood immediately. That's what we've always done," she said.

Alton added that the latest incident has left her own daughter terrified, "because it brings back everything. It's also hard to watch them go through it."

Gary Rinne

About the Author: Gary Rinne

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Gary started part-time at Tbnewswatch in 2016 after retiring from the CBC
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