MPP's home goes up in flames 0
"I've never felt so helpless in my life."
That's how Garfield Dunlop felt Thursday as he fled his burning house.
The Simcoe North MPP had returned early from Queen's Park to his home on Dunlop Drive in Coldwater and had just started napping when the fire alarm roused him from his brief sleep. Dunlop was the only one home at the time.
"Thank God we had the smoke alarms," Dunlop said.
He went to the basement, where he saw what resembled a "bonfire" burning on the floor.
"I panicked immediately," he said. "I thought, 'Maybe I can get this out,' but I looked at it and saw the smoke going up the walls."
That's when he ran out of the house with his cordless phone, which wouldn't work when he tried to call 911. So, he sprinted to his nearby plumbing shop, where someone called 911.
"I think I set the record for the 200-metre dash," Dunlop joked.
Severn Township Fire Chief Eric Dowell estimated the cost of damage to be at least $200,000. The one-storey brick home, where Dunlop and his wife, Jane, a Severn Township councillor, have lived for 35 years, sustained "severe heat and smoke damage," Dowell said.
The structure seems to be in sound condition, but many of the home's contents were lost, he said.
Among the possessions lost in the fire, Dunlop said, were many of his and his wife's clothes and a photo of Dunlop when he was Simcoe County warden in 1998.
"Everything's got smoke damage, but I think a lot of stuff can be cleaned," he said.
Firefighters asked Dunlop if there was anything he wanted them to retrieve from the home.
"My BlackBerry is near the couch," the MPP told them.
It might seem like a simple material possession to some, but Dunlop --who attends numerous functions in the riding -- relies on his phone to stay in touch and keep him on schedule. (He had to cancel a handful of events he was planning to attend Thursday evening.)
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but Dowell said it is not believed to be suspicious. Dunlop was also unsure of what sparked the fire.
The Dunlops plan to continue living at the same address.
"We want to stay there. We love where we live," he said.
He and Jane "are both very thankful" for the Severn firefighters, who were "absolutely incredible" and helped calm him down.
"You've got to go through it to know how helpless (people) feel," he said.
Now, having gone through it himself, he urges everyone to "listen to the fire department" and have working smoke alarms installed in their homes.