The two adults and a toddler were coming down the elevator in a Calgary highrise when it shorted out because of a burst water pipe.
The elevator stopped on the main floor but, with its electricity gone, the doors wouldn't open.
The make matters worse, the lift was filling with water from the burst pipe on a higher floor.
"It was about ankle deep. However, when you're in that situation you don't know whether it's going to fill up the elevator, because it's filling up faster than it's emptying," said fire department spokeswoman Carol Henke.
"From their perspective they did not know what their fate was going to be."
Henke said the family's cellphone wouldn't work, so a 911 call was made by someone outside who realized they were trapped.
"Their lives were never truly in danger unless 911 wasn't called," said Henke, who added fire crews had the water turned out and the family freed within 10 minutes of arriving.
Also on HuffPost