Six people were sent to hospital in stable condition and 15 were placed in temporary accommodations after a fire early Thursday at a 55+ residence.
Fire crews went to the St. Josaphat Selo-Villa on McGregor Street around 1:20 a.m. after receiving multiple 911 calls about residents trapped inside the eight-storey high-rise.
“Whenever we’re dealing with a 55+ complex where residents have disabilities, it is challenging for firefighters,” assistant fire chief Jamie Vanderhorst told 680 CJOB’s The Start.
“One of the egress routes would normally use is the hallways and the stairs, and that was charged with smoke. It is very scary, it’s very emotional you’re just getting woken up and now you’re coming out in your pyjamas down a ladder from the third floor… and then you add inclement weather as well with water on ladders.
“Whenever we have residents that are trapped, it’s always a challenge. Life safety is always a priority and we have to figure out a way to get them out.”
Some residents were helped down the stairs, while others were rescued from exterior windows by firefighters on ladders.
Evacuees were sheltered on Winnipeg Transit buses that had been deployed to the scene, while city social services staff worked to find temporary accommodations.
Top-floor resident Miladros Plastd said everyone is dealing with the aftermath of the blaze.
“My friends are over at the St. Boniface Hospital because they have asthma,” Plastd said.
“There’s still a smell of smoke on my floor… so I open my window once in a while, but it’s freezing, so I (have to) shut it again.”
The fire was declared under control in less than an hour, after which crews worked to put out hot spots and ventilate smoke from the building.
A preliminary investigation suggests the fire was caused by an accidental electrical issue, and fire damage was mostly contained to a third-floor suite, although there was smoke and water damage throughout other areas of the building as well.
The city said due to the freezing temperatures, it will continue to monitor conditions in the area and work to de-ice roads and sidewalks where needed.