On her first day back to class, View Royal elementary student Katrina Van Winkle and hundreds of her classmates marched to the View Royal fire hall to thank the firefighters that saved her life.
The shy nine-year old stood holding a letter she wrote thanking the firefighters, especially fire Chief Paul Hurst for risking his life to save hers.
Hurst pulled Van Winkle from the fire on March 14. He found her on the floor unconscious and not breathing.
“Katrina gave it her best to get out,” said Hurst. “We made sure she got out.”
Emotions ran high on the sunny afternoon between firefighters, teachers and parents all with the knowledge that this story could have had a tragic end.
The Grade 3 student was airlifted to B.C. Children’s Hospital she was discharged from hospital March 16. Her first day back to school was March 27.
“I couldn’t keep her home,” said her great grandmother Sue Utendale, who was also in the home the morning of the fire. “There has been such an out pouring of support from so many people in the community. One day we hope to thank them all individually.”
The family has moved into a townhouse in View Royal.
Katrina and her classmates yelled a big “thank you” to the firefighters, sang a song about View Royal and they left dozens of signs and banners students created to thank the department and other emergency services that assisted at the fire.
“This is great the entire school is supporting this student and for them all coming to the fire department it’s pretty noble,” said Hurst. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
A total of 34 firefighters from View Royal and Colwood fire departments attended the fire.
Katrina was home with her grandmother and great grandmother when the early morning fire started. All three were rescued.
“Without working smoke alarms this certainly could have been fatal,” said Hurst emphasizing the family had smoke alarms on all levels of the home. “It was the smoke alarms that got them out of bed.”
Investigators found that the fire began in the basement where combustibles were stored too close to a baseboard heater in the laundry room.
Hurst would like to urge families to ensure they have working smoke alarms and practise fire drills and escape routes on a regular basis so there are more happy endings.