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.