In a disturbing pre-dawn incident, residents of an apartment complex on Winnipeg’s western end were startled from slumber by a fire alarm. One of the residents, Clarissa Friesen, recalls the surreal nature of the early morning interruption, the alarm raised by a frantic girl sounding the cry of “fire”.
The emergency call was routed to the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS) just shy of 5 a.m. They scrambled a rapid response to a triple-story residential block, nestled in the 500 quadrant of Gagnon Street, conveniently located near the crossing of Portage Avenue and Perimeter Highway.
Friesen’s recollection of the incident paints a harrowing picture of a balcony completely devoured by the fiery beast. Bolting into action, she alerted her boyfriend of the urgent need to evacuate the premises immediately.
The responding firefighter teams arrived on the scene to a daunting view of smoke and flames billowing from the building. They launched an offensive from the outer perimeter, while concurrently ensuring safe evacuation of the residents.
Another resident, Maddison Buckle, found herself jolted awake by the thunderous sound of firefighters barging through her door. Caught in the urgent chaos, she was only able to escape with her dog, keys, and phone, leaving behind her beloved cats.
Once the firefighters brought the fire under control by 7:20 a.m., they ventured inside to suppress any remnants of the calamity. Post the ordeal, a relieved Buckle was moved to tears upon being reunited with her feline friends, despite being psychologically shaken.
The daunting uncertainty of a return to their abodes looms over the residents, including Friesen and Buckle. As Friesen stated, empathy is running high for the top floor residents, as their homes had borne the brunt of the destruction with ceilings now collapsed, rendering them uninhabitable.
To provide temporary relief for the distraught residents, the City of Winnipeg’s Emergency Social Services (ESS) team was called to the location. Two buses from Winnipeg Transit service also arrived to offer temporary respite as makeshift shelters.
In the day’s aftermath, residents, among them Friesen and Buckle, got a brief window to retrieve a few belongings from their smoke- and water-damaged units. However, Mike Kenny, a resident whose home was directly below one of the most-affected suites, faced the grim reality that he may have lost everything.
In the detailed account of this unfortunate incident, two firefighters suffered minor injuries, and one was treated at the scene. Fortunately, no one was required to be hospitalised. The department remains tight-lipped about the fire origin which is currently under investigation, and they have yet to disclose any estimates of the damages.