Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Morning Fire in Verdun Kills 4


MONTREAL – Four people, including a 7-year-old boy, have died after a fire roared through a triplex in the Montreal neighbourhood of Verdun early Sunday morning.

About 125 firefighters battled the five alarm fire, on Verdun St. near Regina St., but it was too late to save the victims, which include a a 37-year-old year-old woman, her 7-year-old son, the boy’s 40-year-old aunt and a man in his 40s, Montreal police Constable Anie Lemieux said.

Shane Flowers was at home in Verdun when he got a phone call from the dead boy’s father. “My house is on fire and my son died,” Robert Dewitt told Flowers, a lifelong friend.

Flowers raced down to his friend’s house on Verdun Ave to discover that the blaze had seriously damaged two adjacent triplexes.

“This is just terrible,” said Flowers, as he watched firefighters remove charred debris from the houses. “You wouldn’t wish this on your worst enemy.”

When firefighters responded to the call, most of the people in the unit where the fire began were still asleep, Montreal fire department Chief of Operations Luc Robillard said.

Dewitt managed to flee the blaze with his other son, while firefighters rescued about 15 other residents from the two triplexes building.

Rejean Goyette, who lives on the top floor of one of the triplexes, said firefighters rescued him from his home through a window because both the front and back exits were blocked by flames.

“My wife woke me up because our smoke detector went off,” he said. “They took us through the window to the apartment next door and got us down the ladder.”

Goyette’s sister, Francine Paquette, arrived at the scene Sunday morning and began frantically looking for her brother. “There he is,” she shouted when she spotted him.

Bergeron said police have taken over the investigation because there were deaths but the cause of the fire was not yet known.

Robillard said it was likely that there was no smoke detector at 3606 Verdun Ave. or, if there was one, that it was malfunctioning because there was so much smoke when firefighters were called, the victims likely had little chance and they likely succumbed to smoke inhalation.

“If there was a functioning smoke detector, we wouldn’t be talking about (four) deaths this morning,” he said.

Robillard said about a dozen firefighters who worked to save the victims will be offered counselling and psychological support, as the deaths of three people, and especially of a child, were difficult to see.

Firefighters were also planning to go door to door in Verdun Sunday to remind people of the importance of installing smoke detectors.

More details to come.


Les F said...

No Smoke Detectors --Have You Checked Yours Lately ? a good time to alert our Verdun Connection members & others who check in here, to Check Your Detectors..... Officials say the deaths of four people - including a 7-year-old boy - in a Verdun fire yesterday could have been avoided had there been a functioning smoke detector in the house. See John Kenney's video at
video here:

Les F said...

Some Good News , woman in her 40's declared dead on Sunday,is actually alive & in critical condition in hospital.........the bad news,they think one of teh kids may have been playing with a lighter.

here's the updated story:
This story has been updated.

MONTREAL – A fire in Verdun that claimed the lives of three people and critically injured a fourth could have been caused by a child playing with a cigarette lighter, Montreal police said Monday.

“That is the theory right now – that one of the children could have been playing with a lighter,” said Montreal police Constable Olivier Lapointe. “It is a good time to remind people to be very careful with (lighters).”

Three people died in the Sunday morning fire: 7-year-old Chad Harbour-Dewitt; his mother Holly Harbour, 37; and Sylvain Marois, 45, a boarder in the house on Verdun Ave.

A woman in her 40s, whom police had declared dead on Sunday afternoon, is in fact still on life support in hospital. Police and fire department officials couldn’t explain the mix-up Monday.

Chad’s father, Bob Dewitt, managed to escape from the house, along with his young son, A.J.

Several people stopped by the house Monday to place flowers and teddy bears outside the triplex that was gutted by the blaze.

“Chad (Little Buddy), forever in my heart,” one woman wrote on a card that was left with some white roses.

Thérèse Van Loo came from Little Burgundy to see the makeshift memorial after seeing it on the television.

“It is very sad – especially for the little boy,” she said.

The house where the blaze began was not equipped with a smoke detector that was working, firefighters said.

That news comes as no surprise to Dany Yon, whose company is often called in to secure homes and buildings that have been destroyed by fire.

“About 50 to 60 per cent of rental properties don’t have smoke detectors,” Yon estimated, after his employees had padlocked the two triplexes that were destroyed by Sunday’s fire.

“Even when landlords install them (as they are required to do by law), tenants often take them down because they go off when they are cooking,” Yon said.

Yon said he has visited several fire-damaged apartments and found smoke detectors without batteries or ones that have been disconnected.

“We find (smoke detectors) on top of the fridge or in the bathroom,” he said. “Once, we saw a battery inside the smoke detector, but the person didn’t bother to connect it.”

People who are bothered by smoke detectors that go off when someone is cooking should place the device farther away from the kitchen, Yon recommended.

Most often, smoke detectors don’t work because the tenant has failed to change the battery every six months, has removed the battery to use it for another purpose or has removed it because the alarm sounds when someone is cooking.

In 2008, coroner Jacques Ramsey recommended that landlords use smoke detectors equipped with lithium batteries, which last about 10 years and could save about 150 lives in Quebec over the next decade, he estimated.

But Louise Desrosiers, a fire prevention chief with the Montreal Fire Department, said they don’t see very many detectors with lithium batteries, probably because they are more expensive than standard smoke detectors.

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

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Les F said...

one more update (2 days old)
Montreal--Wanita Dufour, a woman in her 40s, who was seriously injured in a Verdun fire that killed three people, passed away early Tuesday, the coroner’s office said. Dufour had been in critical condition since the blaze early Sunday morning at the house on Verdun Ave.

Chad Harbour-Dewitt, 7, his mother, Holly Harbour, 37; and Sylvain Marois, 45, a boarder in the house, were killed in the blaze.

Chad's father, Bob Dewitt, escaped from the house, along with his son, A.J. Dufour is a relative of Dewitt's, the coroner’s office said.

Police said the fire could have been started by a child playing with a cigarette lighter.

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

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