Off-duty cop rescues toddler in house fire

A Clayton woman is thanking her mother and an off-duty police sergeant for getting her two-year-old child out of a burning Surrey home Thursday.

Firefighters say what Sgt. Derek King did that afternoon was a heroic act, and it is one that may have saved the life of Tracey Hight’s daughter Avery.

Hight said in a Friday interview that her mother Barbara was taking care of Avery in the basement of Hight’s home in the 19000-block of 71st Avenue Thursday when a fire broke out upstairs.

Avery was sleeping at the time, and her grandmother, who has difficulty breathing due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, gravely realized she would need to help her granddaughter up two flights of stairs before the pair could get to safety, said Hight.

Meanwhile, King, who is an RCMP dog handler, was out for a walk in the area when he spotted smoke and flames coming out of the home, said Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis.

King ran to the house and started banging on the front door. By that time, Barbara Hight had made it to the main floor with Avery, but the two had become separated in the smoke.

King helped Avery’s grandmother get to safety, then went back into the house to find the toddler.

The sergeant could hear Avery crying, but the smoke was too thick to see through, Garis said. King felt his way through the home and into a nearby room where he found Avery, then brought her to safety.

Garis said King had entered the house minutes before firefighters arrived.

“Seconds count,” said Garis, when asked the significance of the sergeant’s actions. “What he did had a strong likelihood of saving this child’s life and it was at great peril.”

Garis said King had relied on instinct and had put his own life at risk.

“Some of those toxins can take you down in one breath,” said Garis, adding that entering a fire without proper equipment is extremely dangerous.

“I’m sure he contemplated that, he looked at the time frame, he made a decision, and it worked out great. I wouldn’t take that away from him for one second.”

Avery and her grandmother were taken to Langley Memorial Hospital. The toddler has since been released, but Barbara Hight remains in hospital where she is being treated for inhaling smoke.

Hight said she is still in shock over what happened, but thankful.

“I appreciate everything (King) has done. I’m very thankful for him coming to help my mom and my daughter,” said Hight.

She also thanked her mother for getting Avery out of the basement.

“For me, it’s amazing she was able to carry her all the way up the stairs with her health being as it is,” she said.

The fire started inside a structural connection between the single family home and a coach house, Garis said, adding that it does not appear to be suspicious.

Hight thanked her neighbours for having shown incredible generosity since the fire, offering to help her and her husband Kyle Jessop in any way they can. The family has fire insurance, but their home will not be habitable for at least six months, she said. For the time being, the three are staying with family.

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