(Young Cody McNeil who had been badly burned in a February 8, 2017 fire, is escorted by Nicholas DeFazio, Ottawa Information Officer at Ottawa Fire Services, to meet the firefighters at Station 46 on Stittsville’s Iber Road who received the fire dispatch call and saved Cody. Photos: Stittsville Central)
It was five years ago on February 8, 2017 when Tammy and Chris McNeil awoke in the middle of the night to the loud blare of their smoke alarm. Not knowing what had set the alarm off and somewhat confused from being awoken, the parents went in different directions, Dad Chris to the kitchen to investigate, and Mom Tammy to 19-month-old Cody’s bedroom. She opened Cody’s door, with that action air rushed in, to see his crib immediately become engulfed in flames. Tammy ran in and quickly had Cody in her arms. A humidifier was determined as the cause of the fire.
It has been five years since that horrific night for the Glen Cairn family and lately little Cody had started asking his parents more questions about the fire. Being so young in 2017, he thankfully doesn’t remember the events from that worrisome night.
Tammy shared with Stittsville Central that she told Cody when he asked what had happened, “the fire was in your room where you sleep now. I ran in to get you from your crib and we ran outside to the van and called the important number 911”. With that response, Cody was determined to meet the firefighters at Stittsville’s Station 46 on Iber Road who answered the dispatch call and saved his life.
With Mom in the family van cradling Cody and Dad standing in the front yard in little else than what he wore to bed, the firefighters quickly responded to both the house and importantly Cody.
Tammy shared, “with third degree burns to Cody’s face, arms and legs, he was rushed to Emergency in critical condition where he was placed on advanced life support. Once stabilized, he was transferred to CHEO, where he was in ICU and then moved to a hospital room for a little over two weeks. Cody was wrapped head to toe with a special pressure wrap, with a ventilator to breath“. During that time, Mom and Dad were told he may not walk, but by the time he left the hospital, he had already begun to walk. A great relief to Mom and Dad and a sign that Cody was on the mend. Albeit, when he came home he still had to wear a full-face pressure mask that he didn’t like, “the hospital staff and doctors at CHEO were great, they adjusted the mask, actually cutting some out, so it didn’t cover his entire face,” Tammy added.
“Cody has endured three surgeries and two skin grafts. He has a scar going across his nose and cheek area, but with time that may fade”, Tammy continued.
“We are also trying to make happy memories for the family each year. On Tuesday this year, we had breakfast at his favourite place, Hurley’s here in Stittsville, and then went to Funhaven to play video games. Cody loves video games and usually masters them in little time.”
On February 10, the afternoon at Station 46 was pure joy. Cody arrived donning a gift of donuts and coffee to thank the firefighters for what they had done to save him and help his family. Little did six-and-a-half year-old Cody know how the crew at Station 46 was going to celebrate him.
Cody, his Mom, Dad and two-month-old baby sister Sadie were welcomed to Station 46 by Nicholas DeFazio, the Public Information Officer for Ottawa Fire Services. He was introduced to Captain Steve Styles, now Acting District Chief who has been on duty for 27 years. Styles took the initial call the night of the fire. He was there to greet little Cody firsthand. Also there to meet Cody, were Mylo Richards and Pat Bolger who had also assisted in saving the little boy’s life. The District Fire Chief, Gwen Lewis, and Martin Gervais, the Assistant Chief of Investigations, were also present.
What an afternoon planned for this special little boy. Cody was presented with a special firefighter coin and firefighter hat. His Mom Tammy told us, “Cody just loves coins. He is always looking for coins on the ground. He was given a penny and was so excited because they aren’t made anymore. This is going to be very special for him”.
He posed for photos with Captain Styles. Cody is your typical six-year-old – articulate, inquisitive and open to sharing his opinion. When being lifted up to the front bumper by Captain Styles, young Cody told him, “you know I weigh 55 pounds and have wiggly teeth”. Not only wiggly, but “he’s lost a front one”, Mom leaned over to tell me.
After the formalities, Cody was taken on a grand tour of the station by Mylo Richards. This included sitting inside of a fire tanker where he asked firefighter Mylo about every button and gadget he could see. He learned where the ladders and axes are tucked away in the tanker, where the water hoses are hooked up. He also figured out and unfurled a foldable bright orange safety cone.
But, the moment arrived when Cody would be manning a fire hose. With the help of firefighter Pat Bolger, Cody took control of the hose. He asked, “Can I shoot it to the roof?” It was suggested he aim for the flag poles out front instead!
Captain Styles and District Fire Chief Lewis, after the excitement, both emphasized the message, “smoke alarms are so important. They should be installed on every floor of a house because you never know what can cause a fire. Tammy is a hero for getting Cody out of his crib and the burning room around them. This is an example of how quickly a fire can start and the importance of having working smoke alarms installed in your home“.
“Because of our smoke alarms and firefighters, we are thankful to be alive, for Cody to be alive,” said Chris, Cody’s Dad.
Cody’s afternoon was over and he headed home with his new favourite coin, fire helmet, Mom, Dad and two-month old sister Sadie who “he just adores”, said Mom, and memories for a lifetime. At home, Cindy his dog and pet fish Little Blue were awaiting his arrival so he could share his special day with them.