A Halifax regional fire captain who risked his life to save an elderly man from an active bushfire area says he was just doing his job – and doesn’t see himself as a hero.
A bushfire broke out in the Upper Tantallon and Hammonds Plains areas, northwest of Halifax, on May 28 and forced the mass evacuation of several subdivisions.
Capt. Kevin Corkum and firefighter Connor Scott were working at a command post on Hammonds Plains Road when an emergency call came in that day.
The family was unable to reach her elderly father who has dementia and was alone at home on Yankee Town Road – just inside the evacuation zone.
Corkum said fires had already broken out in the area and crews had pulled back because of the flames.
When a 911 call came in [saying] “There was someone in the house, we knew the fire was going to be bad on that road,” Corkum told CBC Radio. Navy noon on monday.
“But that’s what we do. We are the fire service. Our main goal is the safety of life.”
Corkum said he and Scott, who were wearing only basic PPE and no oxygen equipment, jumped into their boss’ pickup truck to try to rescue the man.
“There were moments when I felt like we were walking through a wall of fire,” Scott told CBC News on Monday.
They drove toward Yankeetown Road, Corkum said, day turned to night, and visibility was zero.
They couldn’t see the civilian numbers, he said, and ended up passing through the house twice, before finding the driveway.
“When we pulled up, everything around the house was on fire,” he said. “There were trees on either side, maybe 20 to 30 feet away, and everything was on fire.”
Corkum, who was driving, instructed Scott that he had 30 seconds to check the house for the man. Both doors were locked, so Scott ended up being kicked in the front door.
“The old man was sitting in his chair unaware of what was going on, unaware of the danger,” Corkum said.
He and Scott grab the man and get him into the truck with only minutes, maybe seconds, to get out.
One of those moments, Corkum said, is “You’re out there doing what needs to be done.”
“It’s the first time in 22 years that I’ve checked out…and I’m like, ‘I really don’t know I’m going 100 percent out of this,'” he said.
Fortunately, he said, they were able to get through the smoke and embers to get the man to the command center, where he could be assessed by paramedics.
Navy noon52:42Captain Kevin Corcum with Halifax Fire and Emergency tells the harrowing story of the rescue of a man with dementia at the onset of the Tantallon bushfire. And on the phone, repair technician Aaron Public Over offers advice.
“My heart grew a little bit. I was very, very happy when he passed,” Scott said.
“And it was only moments before we moved on to the next mission. But there was this short, sweet moment where we knew he was going back to his family.”
The husband then went to help clear out a house in Upper Tantallon, where the family was still packing.
“It was an unprecedented fire for me, just with the speed and forward momentum the fire had and the sheer amount of fire,” Corkum said.
“I haven’t seen anything like this in 22 years, that’s for sure.”
Brendan Meagher, President of the Halifax Professional Fire Fighters Association, praised Corkum and Scott for their hard work that day.
He said that even though they knew it was dangerous, they continued.
“They kept going, got to the house, went up to him and got him in that truck and got out of there and saved his life,” Meagher told CBC Radio. Morning Info Nova Scotia on monday.
“What they did was amazing.”
However, Corkum said he would not consider himself a hero.
“This is just one story from the event and I’m sure there are many more stories of true heroism just from people in the neighborhood helping other people,” he said.
He added that everyone, including Halifax’s neighbours, police and fire crew, did everything they could to protect people and property.
“Everyone has given over 100 percent, and I am so proud to be a part of this organization and so proud of the people I work with.”