MONTREAL — An unattended cigarette may be behind a fire inside an apartment in Lachine late Friday that left a woman and her eight-year-old daughter dead and her five-year-old daughter fighting for her life, police said Saturday.
Five members of one family were inside the apartment when the fire broke out around 11 p.m. Friday, Montreal police said, in a 51-unit building in Lachine in the citys west end.
The mother, 40, and her eight-year-old daughter were pronounced dead in hospital while her four-year-old daughter remained in critical condition in hospital on Saturday.
Const. Jean-Pierre Brabant said during the fire, the twins jumped from a second-storey balcony to evade the flames, suffering minor injuries.
The teens were taken to hospital and investigators hope to meet with them later to find out what transpired inside the unit.
Brabant says investigators are working with a hypothesis that a forgotten cigarette sparked the fire.
"Theres still analysis that has to be done by investigators to confirm all that," Brabant said. "The first hypothesis we are looking at is a cigarette that was forgotten that caused the fire."
A small collection of stuffed animals sat at the front door of the building on Duff Court Street and hand-drawn pictures were taped to the glass after investigators opened up a large perimeter.
The Montreal fire department said they came face to face with an intense blaze when they arrived at the scene.
Neighbours who gathered around the complex criticized the building’s owners, saying they’ve failed to do repairs in recent months and were aware of safety hazards inside the building. They spoke of bedbugs, faulty heating systems and electrical problems going unfixed.
Operations chief Matthew Griffith said when firefighters arrived, the blaze was intense enough that 70 firefighters were called to combat it.
Early Saturday morning, neighbours began dropping off teddy bears, dolls and flowers by the apartment’s front entrance. They had formed a small pile by noon, displayed below a handwritten sign that read “God Bless” and a child’s drawing of a dream catcher.
"There was a smoke alarm in the apartment," Griffith said. "Was it functional or not, its difficult to determine for now because of the intensity of the flames and the heat at the arrival of firefighters."
A 40-year-old woman and her eight-year-old daughter have died after a fire in an apartment block in Montreal's Lachine borough, Montreal police have confirmed.
Three of the woman's children were also injured in the blaze, with one of them in critical condition.
Its just … I cant say. What will happen to the other children? Sere Keita, 36, said in Lachine on Saturday November 9, 2019. She lives across from the apartment complex where fire struck Friday. Dave Sidaway / Montreal Gazette
The Lachine neighborhood was in mourning Saturday, with children and adults placing plush toys on the doorsteps of the apartment building.
The fire broke out at about 11 p.m. Friday on the second floor of a 51-unit apartment building on Duff Court Street.
"Due to the rapid intervention of the firefighters it was contained to that apartment only," said Matthew Griffith, speaking for the Montreal fire department.
Griffith said the intensity of the flames when firefighters entered the unit made it impossible to tell whether the smoke alarm in the apartment was working. About 70 firefighters worked to evacuate the building and extinguish the fire.
Firefighters and paramedics tried to resuscitate the woman and her daughter but they were declared dead at the scene, Montreal police said. Her other daughter, 4, is still in critical condition.
The woman's two 13-year-old sons were also taken to hospital, but their injuries are not life-threatening. The two boys survived by jumping off the second-floor balcony, Fire Chief Louise Desrosiers said Saturday afternoon.
"People will be able to go back to their apartments. We made sure that the alarm system was working and everybody had the smoke alarm too," said Desrosiers.
They said it's too early to confirm what caused the fire, but they suspect it may have been caused by a cigarette.
Charon Chukwu, who has four children of her own, also lives in the apartment block. When she heard the alarm go off, she hesitated to leave the building. She said many of the tenants were still asleep and there was confusion when the alarm first sounded.
"I thought maybe it was the usual alarm, maybe it's smoke from somebody's cooking," said Chukwu.
Chukwu was a friend of the 40-year-old woman, and was horrified when she found out what had happened. She said the victim was friendly and always worked hard to support her children.
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