The hardest night of Brett Tetanish’s career as a firefighter started when 911 calls began pouring in at around 1 a.m. AT on Saturday.
It had been raining and thundering very hard all night and floodwaters were rising quickly. While out on a call, his crew became stranded on high ground when several bridges were washed away or submerged in the area. He says he’s still having a hard time processing what happened that night.
“The fact that we’ve lost four people is … we very, very well could have lost many more. But you know, I went home, after two days and no sleep, and I cried with my little girls and my girlfriend for an hour, held my kids.”
One of the people Tetanish’s crew rescued was Kimberly Gillingham. She told CBC News the first sign something was wrong at her home was when her cat came upstairs wet.
“It’s like, ‘I know you weren’t outside because I have three cats.’ And so I went downstairs…. I had two feet of water in my basement,” Gillingham said.
“I tried to turn off the electricity and got zapped. So I turned off the main breaker, went upstairs. All the firemen are out in front of my house trying to figure what to do.”
With waters swirling around the house, Tetanish said they put firefighter Logan Hope in an ice water suit and tethered him so he could get inside Gillingham’s home without getting swept away.
Hope, 22, said it was the hardest thing he had ever done in his life.
“I grew up in the water. I was a paddling coach for probably five years, competitive kayak and canoe. I’m used to the water…. I dug my feet into the ground as much as I could and I felt the strain of the tether on my back, so I knew that I was going to be OK,” he said.
Inside her home, Gillingham prepared to leave.
“I threw up, I was scared,” she said. “I grabbed my purse and I put my purse in between my two jackets.”
The water was a lot colder than he expected, Hope recalled.
“You have to put your trust into your training at that point,” he said.
Gillingham said Hope attempted to look for her medication, but everything was floating around in the water. She said he wrapped his arms around her and they left the house.
‘There was so much debris’
“You couldn’t stand up in it. There was so much debris … everybody’s firewood and everything from up the road was coming down to our place,” Gillingham said.
Then she and Hope got swept away in the floodwater, which she said was nearly a metre deep.
Gillingham said she and Hope both got “beat up pretty bad.” She said she lost her engagement ring, her clothes and shoes in the water, but that she managed to keep ahold of her purse and phone — which she said somehow still works.
She said Hope helped keep her calm during the ordeal.
“He says, ‘It’s going to be all right, Kim. I got you. I got you.’ Because, I mean, I was scared to death,” she said.
Firefighters were able to pull them out of the water by forming a human chain.
Eventually they were able to get Kim to a hospital. Gillingham found out on Wednesday her leg was broken.
“That’ll heal, I’m alive. That’s the main thing. And God bless the fireman because he could have been in the same situation as me and I know he got hurt too. His helmet got thrown off and he’s all bruised too. I’d imagine, he’d have to be.”
She said Hope is her hero and that she’d like to give him a hug. She believes she would be dead had he not come to save her.
‘All of us combined saved her life’
Hope says whatever thanks he deserves should be shared by those who were there to help him.
“I know I had her life in my hands, but I had my crew. My crew had my life in their hands, so all of us combined saved her life,” Hope said.
“Everybody there was a hero in my opinion. But I’m thankful. I’m just really thankful she’s OK.”