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ICYMI: Local Squamish hero gets national recognition

Chris Evans broke down a door to lead a resident to safety last month.
Armand Constantin
The scene on April 10 in Squamish, where a local hero saved an elderly resident from a house fire.

A Squamish carpenter has received national recognition after being named in the House of Commons in Ottawa by our local MP for his efforts to successfully save an elderly resident from a house fire last month.

Chris Evans told his story in an interview with The Squamish Chief, recounting how his morning commute to work took him past the scene of a fully engulfed home on Government Road on April 10, and how he broke down the door to try to find anyone inside: And all without any formal emergency services training.

“I drove by the house first and saw smoke and thought to myself the guy should clean his chimney, and as I drove by I saw smoke coming out of the other side of his house. I kept driving for a second but it didn’t feel right, so I reversed back down the road, and when I pulled in the driveway and saw the house again, it was fully engulfed,” he said.

“I parked my truck a little bit away from the house because I didn’t know if it was going to explode or not, and I ran up to it shouting ‘fire, fire, get out of your house’ because there was an old car in the driveway, and I just pictured an old couple laying in bed. I went up and tried the door, but it wasn't open. I looked in the window and saw tons of smoke, and I realized I had to do something and kicked in the door.”

It was a task that was surprisingly easy.

“I kicked it once and my foot went through it and all the smoke came billowing out. I regained my composure and then kicked the handle and booted it in. The door just shattered; it was an older door.”

Once inside, he said the kitchen was “glowing orange,” and his shouts must have alerted the resident—90-year-old Armand Constantin—who had been sleeping on the second floor.

“I put my back to the wall and started making my way up to the voice that I heard, and it was Armand who was halfway down the staircase. … He said he had heard screaming and yelling and bashing so that got him out of bed.”

Evans took hold of Constantin’s wrist and led him out of the burning home to safety—thankfully unharmed.

“It just worked out so well that Armand was already up and making his way down the stairs and we bumped into each other, and then I just guided him out the rest of the way.” 

“He was fine, we were both just wide-eyed.”

“I asked him over and over if there was anyone else in the house because he was in a bit of shock, because I thought there could have been someone else in there and he said no one was. I was happy because it meant I didn’t have to go back in.”

Evans said that Constantin was well enough that they could sit and chat while the Squamish Fire Rescue responded and did their part.

“We had a good 40 minutes to sit and chat and watch his house burn, so we had a lot to chat about,” said Evans.

“He was very nice and kind, a sweet old fellow and I feel so bad that he’s lost his home at this age.”

Constantin is now settled into his new home at Shannon Falls Retirement Residence.

He said he is “doing real fine,” now and credits Evans with saving his life that day. 

It was a funny way for the pair to meet, he said, stressing he wanted to thank Evans again.

"He made a good effort," he said. "It turned out very well." 

About losing his home, Constantin was pragmatic in his response. 

"Well, things like that happen. You can't do nothing about it."

The story of the rescue was told by West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country MP, Patrick Weiler in the House of Commons on May 22, with Weiler describing Evans’ efforts as heroic.

“Armand almost certainly would have died if not for Chris’s selfless bravery,” said Weiler.

Evans said the recognition was an honour, and his actions had come as instinct.

“You hear about this stuff and you think ‘oh my god that was so crazy,’ but actually having gone and done it now, it's not that crazy. It just happens. 

“You just go with your instincts, and next thing you know you’re sitting in your truck … and it's all over.”

The scope of the fire on April 10 was intense: Squamish Fire Rescue said to The Squamish Chief in a statement on the day that it required four fire apparatus and five support vehicles on scene with a crew of 20 fire fighters and two chief officers.

The origin and cause of the fire is under investigation.

~With a file from Jennifer Thuncher/The Squamish Chief

••Please note that this story has been corrected since it was first posted.

It originally stated Constantin was at Hilltop House. He is actually living at Shannon Falls. The Squamish Chief apologizes for this error.