When the fire alarm went off and smoke was spreading through the hallway of her apartment building, Paryas Rezaei and her family knew there was a fire on their floor.
But despite the warning signs, many of their neighbours hadn’t left their apartments. So Paryas and her parents ran down the third-floor hallway, banging on doors to wake people up.
At a ceremony last week, District of North Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services awarded 12-year-old Paryas with a Fire Chief’s Commendation.
In a conversation with Mayor Mike Little, tenants from another unit on the floor said they believed Paryas’s actions saved their lives.
“There had been a couple of false alarms before and they weren’t planning on getting up,” said fire chief Brian Hutchinson. “They were in a deep sleep.”
With all the excitement going on, Paryas’s mother, Azadeh Rezaei – whose first language isn’t English – didn’t feel confident in her ability to communicate over the phone. So Paryas got on the line.
“This is where a 12-year-old girl again stepped in and was able to clearly speak with the 911 call-taker and the fire dispatcher, and explain what was taking place,” Hutchinson said. “That information the dispatch is able to pass on to our responding crews when they’re on their way there.”
When fire crews arrived, Paryas's mother led them to the unit where the fire was coming from. There, firefighters recovered two people who were sent to hospital in critical condition.
Hutchinson praised the actions of the entire family. In a situation where there’s clearly a fire in the building, a lot of people would look to immediately evacuate, the fire chief said.
“And that was not what [Paryas] or her family thought to do,” Hutchinson explained. “Their first thoughts were with ensuring that their neighbours were safe.”
In the wake of the International Plaza fire, the Razaeis remain displaced along with tenants from a total of 26 units in the building. Paryas and her family – which had lived in the 1970s apartment building for three years – are now staying in a hotel, with emergency support until Feb. 1.