'Such a tragic event': Six Nations chief mourns 3-year-old killed in house fire

A three-year-old boy found trapped under a bed in a burning house on Six Nations was pronounced dead in hospital Friday morning.

Cause of fire being investigated with help from Ontario Fire Marshall

Six Nations Fire crew assess the scene of a house fire in Ohsweken, a village on the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve, on Friday. (David Ritchie/CBC)

A community is in mourning after a three-year-old boy died in a house fire on a First Nations reserve near Brantford, Ont., on Friday. He was found trapped under a bed inside the home.

Six Nations of the Grand River Chief Ava Hall addressed the media Saturday.

"It's been a pretty tragic week around here at Six Nations for our community and with the event yesterday, it's very hard for our community … especially when we lose a young person in such a tragic event," said Hall.

Six Nations fire crews were called to a two-storey home in the village of Ohsweken, located on Six Nations territory, at about noon on Friday. They were told a child was possibly trapped inside a bedroom on the second floor.

Six Nations Fire Chief Matthew Miller speaks with reporters on Saturday morning. (Talia Ricci/CBC)

The first crews to arrive on scene reported heavy smoke and flames coming from the first floor of the north, east and south sides of the home.

Six Nations fire say they attempted to gain access to the second floor. Ladders were used on the outside of the house, and crews were able to push the fire back to allow two search teams to enter the home.

The first of two search teams found the child on the second floor, trapped under a bed and unresponsive.

There's nothing that I can say adequately to express our support to the family.- Six Nations Fire Chief Matthew Miller

Resuscitation efforts were made by Six Nations paramedics and firefighters. The boy was taken to West Haldimand General Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

In total, seven children were transported to hospital for assessment and treatment. A three-week-old and a one-year-old were taken to Sick Kids hospital in Toronto.

Seven fire trucks responded, along with 17 Six Nations firefighters. Nine Brant County firefighters and members of the Oneida Nation Fire Department were also on scene assisting with scene security and the fire investigation.

Six Nations Fire Chief Matthew Miller says the children are related and from the same family. According to Miller, adults were home at the time of the fire.

Miller was also treated in hospital for smoke inhalation. His breathing mask was knocked off when he hit his head on a stair bannister while rescuing the children. He was released a short time after and returned to the scene. 

A community grieves 

Miller said the fire has been a difficult experience for first responders.

"I know it's a very difficult time for our fire and emergency services. I know it's a difficult time for the paramedics and police as well, but It's noting in comparison to what the family is probably experiencing at this point," said Miller. "There's nothing that I can say adequately to express our support to the family."

Miller says Six Nations deals with a lot of fires.

"The unfortunate part of all this is that we do have a lot of fire instances that occur in Six Nations," said Miller. "Based on federal statistics, you're 10.4 times likely to die in a First Nation." 

His comments align with statistics in a Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation report from 2007, which stated that for the more than 328,000 First Nations people who live on reserves, the chances of dying in a house fire are 10.4 times higher than for people who do not live on reserves.

Six Nations Chief Ava Hill and Fire Chief Matthew Miller provide updates on a house fire that left a three-year-old boy dead and two other children in serious condition 5:48

"Unfortunately, we are living statistics with that here in Six Nations," Miller said, noting that firefighters respond to two or three house fires every month.

Six Nations Senior Administrative Officer Dayle Bomberry says donations are being collected for the family, including in an online campaign that was initiated by a friend of the family.

According to the Go Fund Me page, the goal was to raise $5,000 to help get this family back on their feet. That goal has already been surpassed. 

Six Nations fire crews say the blaze was mostly extinguished by around 1 p.m. Friday, but multiple hot spots continued to flare up because of high winds. Fire crews remained on scene Saturday.

The cause of the fire is unknown. It is being investigated with the assistance of the Ontario Fire Marshall.