It would have been her first fire call as the newest member of the Tignish Fire Department. Instead, Isabel Getson placed the 911 call Monday afternoon, helped get two family members to safety and rescued four cats and a dog from the Sunset Drive home she shared with her parents and grandmother.
Isabel, 22, her mother, Beverley, and her grandmother, Mary Ford, had arrived home around 2 p.m. Monday.
“We were home maybe, two minutes, three minutes inside and then we noticed the smoke,” Isabel said. She and her mother headed to the basement in search of the problem and saw what she said was "red fire everywhere downstairs".
“I ran back upstairs to the kitchen and grabbed everybody out and took as many cats as I could,” she said.
Four cats and a dog were rescued, but two cats perished.
Except for some cash and jewelry, no other belongings were recovered before the advancing smoke chased them from the home they’ve owned for 13 years.
Her father, Stewart Getson, was at work and Isabel notified him of the fire.
Tignish fire Chief Allan Gavin called it a major loss. Insurance officials were at the home Tuesday assessing the damage and a fire investigator was searching for the cause.
The fire started in the basement and burned through floor joists, causing some of the kitchen floor to collapse into the basement. Smoke damage was extensive throughout the house and firefighters cut holes in the roof to get at the fire.
The Tignish Fire Department received assistance from the Alberton and Miminegash departments. Gavin estimates close to 50 firefighters responded to the call and poured about 15,000 gallons of water on the fire. He said there was so much smoke when they first arrived that they could not even see the fire.
“You can’t put out smoke,” he said.
The Getsons have obtained accommodations at a year-round, pet-friendly cottage in Anglo Tignish, but Isabel said sleep did not come to any of them their first night.
The family said they will be returning to Tignish at some point.
“I’m coming back to Tignish, regardless,” said Beverley.
“It’s going to be back here,” added Stewart, indicating it will either be in their home following repairs or into a replacement house on the lot.
“We finally got the inside and that all done and…” he said gesturing to their fire-damaged home.
Isabel said she didn’t directly participate in Monday’s fire call.
“I just handed out water. I tried to stay out of the way, too,” she said, but felt she gained some insight for dealing with subsequent fire calls.
“It’s an eye-opener. I get some hands-on experience, too; I get to see what’s actually happening, I guess.”
The family is feeling grateful.
“We feel really bad that we did lose two pets, however everyone got out safely,” said Beverley. “It happened during the day when we’re busy coming and going, working.”
“You have to give the firefighters credit,” Stewart said. "The amount of water they went through is unreal.”
“And the smoke,” Beverley said. “It was amazing what they did; they were very professional. We can’t say enough about the Tignish and surrounding communities, they are amazing.
"We don’t know how we're ever going to thank them. ‘Thanks’ just doesn’t seem to cut it.”
Isabel said the community’s response has also been incredible with many people providing clothing and offers of support.