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Sunday morning fire claims lives of mother, son

An early Sunday morning house fire claimed the lives of a mother and son and destroyed their Lower Liberty Road home.

James Canada and his 67-year-old wife, Ellen, and stepson Brian Williams were inside the home when the fire broke out at 1:14 a.m., family members told Liberty Volunteer Fire Chief Andy Hughes when he arrived on the scene.

A neighbor reported the fire to E-911 at 1:14 a.m., and firefighters signed on at 1:16 a.m. and were on the scene within five minutes, according to Hughes.

When they arrived, firefighters found the house fully involved with flames showing from the roof and underneath the doublewide, Hughes said.

Firefighters found the bodies of the mother and son in a bathroom and bedroom.

According to Hughes, Canada said his wife woke him up and told him the house was on fire, and they were crawling to safety when his wife became separated and ended up in the bathroom.

“She got turned around in the dark and smoke and crawled into the bathroom,” the fire chief said.

Canada told Hughes as he crawled from the house he saw fire coming out of the fireplace that was fired with wood.

A family relative said Sunday the couple was inseparable.

“When you saw one, you saw both,” she said, adding the couple had been married for over 20 years.

Canada’s wife woke him up and alerted him to the fire, the relative added.

“Ellen woke up James and said the house was on fire.  When he opened the door, the house was full of black smoke,” she said.

“He couldn’t see, and he told her to get down low on the floor and crawl.

“They crawled toward the back door, and he kicked it until it came open, and he was on the back porch.

“The whole house went up at that point.

“He thought she was behind him, and somehow she ended up crawling back toward the bedroom and was found in the bathroom.

“Brian was still in his bedroom.”

She said Canada was going to stay with relatives for a few days, adding he still was in shock. 

When the first firefighters arrived on the scene, they originally were told five people lived in the house, and only one had escaped.

However, Hughes said thankfully the two children who lived there were spending the night elsewhere and were not at home when the blaze started.

The bodies of the mother and son were transported to the medical examiner’s office in Richmond for autopsy, the fire chief said.

According to Emergency Services Deputy Coordinator Chad Loftis, the fire is believed to have started around the fireplace located in the front of the doublewide and quickly spread throughout the house.

When he realized his wife and stepson were still in the house, Canada attempted to go back in to save them, but the heat and smoke were too heavy, according to the emergency services deputy coordinator.

A total of 16 firefighters from Liberty Volunteer Fire Department responded with three trucks to the early Sunday morning call and were assisted by numerous firefighters from North Halifax, Halifax and Triangle volunteer fire departments.

Some 12 firefighters from North Halifax answered the call with one truck and two rescue squads, nine firefighters from Triangle Volunteer Fire Department responded with three trucks, and 12 Halifax firefighters responded with three trucks. 

Firefighters used over 6,800 gallons of water to bring the fire under control and remained on the scene for four hours.  

Firefighters from Liberty Volunteer Fire Department were called back to the scene around 7 a.m. Sunday after receiving a report of insulation smoking.

The American Red Cross is assisting the Canada family with immediate needs such as shelter, food and clothing, according to Ginger Weaver of the American Red Cross.