WATCH ABOVE: New details from L’Isle Verte have raised questions about the response of firefighters to the blaze at the seniors’ home. Jennifer Tryon reports.
TORONTO – Police are raising concerns about the response to the deadly blaze at a seniors’ residence in eastern Quebec.
A confidential Quebec police source told Global News that firefighters refused to enter the east side of the seniors’ residence that was engulfed in flames because it was too dangerous.
According to the police source this left police officers, who had no protective equipment, to enter the building to rescue residents.
The fire broke out at a seniors’ residence in the small community of L’Isle Verte, Que. earlier this week claiming at least 10 lives with an additional 22 people still unaccounted for.
The three-storey seniors’ home reportedly had a partial sprinkler system but didn’t extend to the east section of the building, the section destroyed in the blaze.
Quebec police Lt. Michel Brunet said eight officers arrived on the scene “a few minutes” after the fire started and entered the building to rescue trapped residents.
Brunet said officers were able to go in and out of the building three times before the smoke became too overwhelming.
By the time fire crews arrived the flames had already overtaken the east side of the building.
L’Isle Verte is a community of fewer than 1500 people and relies solely on a volunteer fire department.
L’Isle Verte Fire Chief Yvan Charron defended the actions of the firefighters saying they evacuated as many residents as they could from the side of the building that wasn’t on fire.
“We evacuated 100% of the people in the building that is still standing. Don’t tell me that we didn’t go in,” said Charron.
Eventually 60 volunteer firefighters from 6 different detachments arrived on the scene to help fight the blaze.
Ladder trucks were also not dispatched to the scene despite residents who were reportedly trapped on balconies.
Jean-Eudes Fraser lost his mother Angéline Guichard, 88, in the fire after heroically attempting to rescue her from a balcony.
Fraser told Global News when he first arrived at the seniors’ residence he saw no emergency personnel and climbed up to the third floor to reach his mother’s blacony
“We saw the flames now,” Fraser said. “I called out to people below: ‘We’re here. Bring a ladder. Bring the firemen. Hurry, I’m here with my mom. Bring us something to help us get down.'”
But by the time Fraser climbed back down to find a larger ladder and climb-up again, his mother had died.
The police officers who did brave the flames had to be rushed to hospital for smoke inhalation but have been released from hospital.
No firefighters were injured fighting the blaze.