It wasn't a fire alarm that alerted the Hunts to the heavy smoke and flames invading their home — it was their 11-year-old son.
Grayson woke to thick smoke Wednesday. He has autism, and he usually begins his day between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m., his dad Bryan Hunt said.
"I just remember being woken up, and we were all heading out the front door. Lucky for us, (Grayson) came into our bedroom... and told us that there was a lot of smoke and light coming from downstairs."
The family — which includes Grayson's mother, Veronica, and her father, who has Stage 4 cancer — filed down the stairs of their Autumnwood Drive home and out their only exit, the front door.
"The smoke was right heavy. You could hardly see a foot in front of you," Hunt said. "My son couldn't even grab a pair of shoes. He came out in his bare feet."
The flames seemed to come from the main floor kitchen, Hunt said. As the family hit fresh air, they saw fire trucks coming.
Firefighters responded to an automatic alarm from the location at 6:22 a.m. and declared the fire under control around 20 minutes later.
However, a fire alarm didn't sound, Hunt said. The complex is part of Manitoba Housing; someone came a day earlier to replace the Hunts' smoke detector and fire alarm, according to Hunt.
"I'm thinking maybe he didn't hook it up properly," Hunt said.
The city wouldn't comment on what crews found upon arrival.
"The fire remains under investigation," a city spokesperson wrote in an email. "No further details can be provided at this time."
Grayson — who got a burn from the stairs' railing — is the reason the family made it out alive, Hunt said. He and his wife take sleeping pills and may not have woken up, he said.
"Thank God my son woke us up. I'm just very proud of him — he's a very loving, caring little boy. He's my little hero, that guy."
The family isn’t sure where they'll live. The Canadian Red Cross paid for their stay at the Canad Inns at the Health Sciences Centre until Saturday. Jordan's Principle is covering another week, and it has provided Walmart gift cards for new clothes.
Manitoba Housing won't offer a new suite unless an investigation determines the fire is not the family's fault, Hunt said.
"We have no money, no credit cards, no nothing. It's pretty hard for us to do anything," he said.
Grayson's new bed is likely destroyed, along with all his toys, Hunt said. Grayson prefers to play with stuffed animals, but doesn’t have any now.
"Even if we do get another suite, we have nothing," Hunt said.
Family pictures and memorabilia, such as ancestors' war medals, are gone.
The family didn't have content insurance.
"It's devastating. I never thought anything like this would happen. I'm just thankful that we're alive and thankful that my son woke us up," Hunt said.
The family is looking for donations of food, household goods and stuffed animals. People with items can drop them off at the Canad Inns at 720 William Ave. for the Hunt family.
Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.