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Const. Nicole Champagne

A young policewoman in Valleyfield, Que., is being hailed for quick thinking – and quick action – that helped save lives in a four-alarm blaze.

Officials are working to find out just what caused the early morning fire on Thursday that left six people injured and 17 people homeless.

It broke out just after 5 a.m. local time and residents called 911 saying they were having a hard time getting out because of the thick smoke.

'Get them out of here'

"The only thing that's going through my mind is we got to go quick we got to get them out of here as quickly as possible," Const. Nicole Champagne of the Quebec Provincial Police told CBC News.

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It was police not firefighters who got to the scene first in Valleyfield, which is about 50 kilometres west of Montreal.

A five-year veteran of the force, Champagne, 27, knocked on doors and kicked them in to help find people.

She found two elderly people needing help, a man and a woman.

"I grabbed the woman and tried to get her out of the apartment when it was time to get down stairs she was walking way too slow, so I decided to grab her in my arms," Champagne said.

Man collapses

But as Champagne looked back to check on the man, he had collapsed of a heart attack.

She rushed the woman out and went back in to the burning building.

"I grabbed the man that was unconscious and pulled him of the apartment with the help of the fireman who'd just came in."

The man is recovering in hospital.

Another woman was left with burns to over 40 per cent of her body and other residents suffered smoke inhalation. And another woman had to jump from her balcony to escape the flames.