| Apr 23, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - April 23, 2009 Bob’s Lake senior escapes fireby Julie Druker

Alex Johnstone (right) survived the fire that engulfed his home on Sunday and rests at the home of his good friend Joe Robitaille who arrived first at the scene.

Eighty eight year old Alex Johnstone of 98 Maple Grove Lane on Bob’s Lake was fortunate to escape harm in an early morning fire on Sunday that tore through his home and burned it and his car to the ground.

He awoke to use the facilities, which it turned out was a stroke of luck

“I felt the heat on the side of my face,” he said in an interview on Tuesday. He pushed the life line button on his bracelet but he was unable to get to the phone. He immediately got out of the building, and lived to tell the tale.

“The smoke was thick and the fire started catching and I couldn’t see anything because of the black smoke and I fell. I picked myself up and got to the door and got out,” he recalled.

Alex’s good friend and neighbour Joe Robitaille, who is always immediately alerted by life line when they receive a call from Alex, received life line’s call at 12:30am and drove immediately to Alex’s home to find the house engulfed in flames. He found Alex safe outside.

Joe then began putting out smaller fires on neighbours’ lawns that had been ignited by flying sparks. Shortly after, South Frontenac fire fighters arrived on the scene.

At 1:30 am neighbour Nick Hally was wakened by his wife Annette who’d let the dog out and saw the red glow and sparks caused by the inferno raging just 200 yards away. Nick recalled I immediately went down there to see what was happened.”

He found a fire truck on the scene and found out that Alex was safe. He also knew that the house was a goner. “Then I was concerned because the wind was blowing this huge plume of sparks way up into the air straight towards our house. So I came back to make sure that all of our gas containers were inside,” Nick said.

Fortunately the fire was contained to the single property and no other buildings were damaged.

Alex was obviously shaken up by the incident having just lost his beloved home of 24 years. “I’m a bag of nerves. You just can‘t comprehend what you‘ve lost. It will never be replaced. Never.I feel terrible. All of my medals and my pictures are gone,” he said.

Alex was born in Scotland and came to Canada in 1950. He fought in the Royal Navy in the second world war and in the Spanish war as well. He was the first Lieutenant to train navy cadets in Kingston.

Although shaken and saddened by his loss, Alex also realizes how lucky he was to escape without injury.

“I’ve got to be thankful for small mercies.” He’s also determined to rebuild on his property. “I’m going to build up again. It’s my place and the ashes of my late wife Dorothy are there.”

Until then, he's been invited to stay with friends Joe and Lisa. Happy to have such good friends, Alex admits, “They are some of the best.”

Joe Robitaille credit’s the OPP and South Frontenac Fire and Rescue for acting so quickly and diligently.

South Frontenac Fire Chief Rick Chesebrough said at this point the fire is considered to be deemed the fire to be “of undetermined origin, not suspicious, and possibly electrical in nature”.

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