Death of sister in Winnipeg house fire 'still hasn't really set in,' brother says

The brother of a woman who died in a rooming house fire on Alexander Avenue Sunday says his sister's "still hasn't really set in."

Jolene Myerion-Ducharme, 20, was 1 of 3 people to die in Alexander Avenue rooming house fire Sunday

20-year-old Jolene Myerion Ducharme was killed in Sunday's fire on Alexander Avenue

The brother of a woman who died in a rooming house fire on Alexander Avenue Sunday says his sister's death "still hasn't really set in."

"I didn't know that story was actually her story, that she was in that house fire," said Alexander Troy Hall. "We haven't even seen her yet since her accident."

His sister Jolene Myerion-Ducharme, 20, was one of three people who died in the fire.

The office of the fire commissioner confirmed 15 people were at home at the time of the fire between the building's two units. The blaze was confined to one unit, which had six adults, including Myerion-Ducharme and two youth inside.
Crews at the rooming house on Alexander Avenue in the aftermath of the fire on Sunday. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Melvin Jacob, a 49-year-old father of four, and 21-year-old Stephanie Meekis, a mother of two, also died in the fire. One man remains in hospital.

Hall said he has concerns about how many people were home at the time of the fire and the overall safety of the building, considering there were only two exits for more than a dozen people.

"[Fifteen] people rooming in a house and only two exits ... that's just a death trap almost. Where were the fire alarms? Was the fire alarm working?" he said. "A lot of people seem like they got out but by the skin of their teeth."

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but Manitoba's office of the fire commissioner confirmed Monday both suites in the duplex had smoke alarms.

State of shock
Debris left over from a fire in a rooming house on Alexander Avenue that left two people dead on Sunday. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Hall said he has been in a state of shock the last few days but is trying to stay strong for the rest of his family and his sister's son and daughter, who are under the care of Manitoba Child and Family Services.

"I've got to just focus on the funeral and then I'll give myself time to grieve," he said, adding Long Plain First nation has already helped out with his sister's funeral, offering up a hall on Selkirk Avenue for the service. "Now those kids don't have their mom."

Hall said he and his family aren't necessarily out to blame anyone for what happened to Myerion-Ducharme, but they want answers.

Hall said he wonders if the death of his sister will lead to safety improvements in rooming houses in Winnipeg.

"Maybe this should shed light on making it safe for people. Why do they have to have such unsafe living conditions just because they're in a hard time?" he said.

Hall has launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for his niece and nephew. He said it's one way he can help bring some comfort to them in a tragic situation.

With files from CBC's Erin Brohman