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Van Horne fire under investigation
Article mis en ligne le jeudi 17 mars 2011

Photo: Marie Cicchini
Police and fire department staff were busy at the scene of the fire.

Two people perished in the aftermath of a fire that forced the evacuation of a three-storey apartment building at 2500 Van Horne Ave. near Wilderton Ave. in Côte-des-Neiges.

When firefighters arrived at the smoky building during the night of March 3, the fire alarm wasn’t ringing and smoke detectors weren’t working, said chief of operations Luc Robillard.

A displaced resident was still pacing the sidewalk around 10 a.m., wondering when she will be able to return to her apartment. Mrs. Houari was sleeping around 1:15 a.m when she heard an alarm ring for about one minute in the apartment building. Then she heard explosions. Her son was trapped in the basement by smoke. “He broke the window to get out. The broken glass cut his forearms as he climbed out the window,” she said.

The owner of the building arrived around 10:20 a.m. but refused to speak to the journalist and entered the building via the garage with an officer.

The firetrucks called to the scene in Côte-des-Neiges during the night of Tuesday to Wednesday were not from the closest fire stations. About 30 firefighters were dispatched from Vieux-Montréal, the South-West, downtown and Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.

Perry Bisson, chairman of the Montreal Fire Association, said there were some flames in the basement and a couple of apartments were damaged on the first floor. But the electrical system, the alarm system and the water damage need to be fixed.

Bisson requested an investigation by the Ministry of Public Security. He suggested that perhaps some territories are under-serviced by the fire department as the focus is placed on prevention.

The Service de sécurité incendie de Montréal launched an internal investigation to find out why the Côte-des-Neiges trucks were called once, cancelled, then called again. The computer system or human error may be to blame.

The cause of the fire was an electrical problem near the locker room. “It was a very smoky fire. The smoke was rising from the basement and into the open staircase while people were coming down,” said Luc Robillard. The building had a central alarm system. If it worked and if everyone had a working smoke detector, everybody would have made it out safely, he said.

A 20-year-old woman died as a result of smoke inhalation on March 4.
A severely injured 26-year old woman also died two days later. The fire department evacuated about 40-50 people from 17 apartments. In total, 13 people suffered from smoke inhalation and 11 were taken to hospital with severe respiratory problems.

[ Marie Cicchini ]

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