A five-year-old boy died Thursday in a house fire on the Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation.
The blaze broke out shortly before 8 a.m., according to Insp. Marc Saindon of the Dakota Ojibway Police Service, who said the home was fully engulfed in flames when emergency crews arrived.
'That community has gone through a lot in the last couple of months, that's for sure.'—Marc Saindon, Dakota Ojibway Police Service
Alvin Maytwayashing, who owned the home, said there were as many as 11 people inside, including eight children.
The boy who died, Tristan Mousseau, was Maytwayashing's grandson. He said the boy may have been forgotten in the scramble to escape through a window at the back of the home.
"He was in the bedroom, the master bedroom, on the bed," said Maytwayashing. "He was sleeping but they woke everybody up. I don't know how they forgot about him. I can't really say."
All of the children were under the age of six and belonged to two families living in the residence, said Saindon, adding there were no other injuries.
He said Mousseau's death is tragic and compounds the sadness the community, located 165 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, has recently experienced.
"That community has gone through a lot in the last couple of months, that's for sure," he said. "Our hearts certainly go out to the family and the community."
Girl, 9, died in house fire earlier this year
A nine-year-old girl was killed in a house fire on the same reserve on Feb. 2.
Chief Russell Beaulieu blamed that death on overcrowding in the community's homes, noting 200 people are on waiting lists to get out of overcrowded houses. The home in which the girl lived had 15 other residents.
At that time, Charlie Hill, a long-time aboriginal housing advocate based in Ottawa, said there is no doubt overcrowding costs lives on reserves. The issue was also blamed in a house fire on a British Columbia reserve last month that claimed five lives.
Both he and Beaulieu called on the federal government to step up efforts to address the problem. Although the 2009 federal budget promised $400 million over two years to address the housing issue, Hill said that is a drop in the bucket to address the backlog, he said.
Fire investigators determined a wood stove started the February blaze.
The office of the fire commissioner was at the scene of Thursday's fire, trying to determine a cause.