Veterinary technician Sindy Chapman and her nephew, Daniel Chapman, are doing well after escaping a horrific blaze at their home at Lazzari Street, Palmiste last Thursday.
But Chapman said she still cannot believe it. She told Newsday everything still feels like a dream.
The house, which she was renting, was completely gutted and two of her dogs – Wendy and Ada – died. Fire officials managed to save her third dog, Honey.
Chapman had not been living there for two months yet, having moved in in late August, before taking in her nephew.
The fire started just before noon, when they were both asleep.
Chapman told Newsday she thought she heard something falling on the roof, which awakened her.
“I pulled the curtain and I didn’t see anything outside.”
But when she opened her door, “The heat pushed me back.
“When I realised there were flames coming down the hallway, I just immediately started screaming to Daniel: ‘The house is on fire! Get out, get out, get out!’”
Daniel woke up and managed to escape through the back door, but Chapman then turned her attention to her canine companions – all rescue dogs.
She works at Annimalia Veterinary Clinic in Duncan Village and regularly helps find homes for abandoned animals.
She told Newsday, “I had to try figuring out how to get the dogs out. I decided I was just going to grab all three of them and run (down the hallway like Daniel), but the door had already started to burn and I couldn’t pass there any more.”
Her final resort was to try to escape through the window in her room in the two-storey building.
“Daniel was screaming at me to just jump, but then I remembered it had a ladder…he ran and he brought it and Ada’s collar was in my hand,” she recalled, as her voice broke.
“But she was so scared and she was panicking and pulling down and her collar slipped out of my hand…and when I tried to reach out further, I couldn’t even see my hand any more because there was so much black smoke.”
She kept screaming, calling her dogs in hopes they would come to her, but to no avail.
It was when she began to feel the heat directly on her back that she knew she would have to jump immediately and hope fire officers could save the dogs, her best friends.
“In all the haste, the ladder didn’t open properly. One foot was on the ladder, one foot was on the AC compressor, and as soon as I moved the other foot, the ladder just fell and I fell (on the concrete) too.”
She said several neighbours came to their aid, including people who live nearby whom she had never met before. Her co-workers also left the clinic to come to help.
The only thing she managed to save was her phone. Everything else was destroyed.
She and Daniel are staying at a friend’s house.
Chapman was told Honey was found in the bathroom, though everything around her had been completely destroyed, leaving everyone puzzled as to how she survived.
She is hailing Honey as a superhero, and said she is eternally grateful to the officer who saved her.
Honey was a stray dog she rescued from the streets.
Chapman and Daniel were taken to the San Fernando General Hospital, treated for smoke inhalation and were discharged the same day. Chapman’s co-workers took Honey to the clinic.
She said Daniel is okay but that she is still in a bit of pain.
And mentally? She said, “I don’t know (how I feel). It still feels like a dream. Everything is hazy.”
She said that on Sunday, she was smelling smoke at random intervals, though there wasn’t any.
“I’m just shaking my head and shaking it off.
"I cannot process any of that right now.
“I’m just trying to focus on Honey, so I’m not processing much other than taking care of her.”
Honey has since had x-rays and blood work done and is gradually getting better, though still coughing occasionally.
“Her platelets are slightly low and she has an infection, but that may be due to the smoke inhalation.”
Chapman's colleagues have since visited the house and collected the remains of Ada and Wendy. They will be cremated.
Investigations into the cause of the fire are still ongoing.
Anyone who wishes to assist Chapman and her nephew can call or message 720-5835 or 748-1909.