A two-month-old girl died after a desperate rescue attempt from a burning house on the remote Manitoba First Nation of St. Theresa Point.
A 16-month-old girl, who was also in the house when the fire broke out just after noon on Sunday, was transported to Winnipeg for treatment of smoke inhalation.
There were six children, aged two months to 13 years, asleep in the home, according to RCMP, who said an adult relative was looking after them but went to a neighbouring residence for a moment when the fire began.
Investigators from the Manitoba Office of the Fire Commissioner said the fire started in a chimney, spread through the attic and ultimately to the rest of the house.
Four children were able to escape, but the two-month-old and 16-month-old girls were still inside.
Constable risks life to save girl
A band constable from the First Nation, Timothy Mason, climbed into the home through a bedroom window and rescued the 16-month-old. He told CBC News he was crawling through the home on all fours when he saw a small figure.
"It was a little girl sitting on the bed crying through the smoke. I knew I had to get up," Mason said.
When he reached her, he said he pushed her out the window. By then, his hair was on fire, his hand was burned and he was gasping for breath. He left the home with the intention of going back in to get the baby, but community firefighters stopped him.
He said he then helped cut a hole in a wall with a chainsaw to get at the infant.
The baby was dragged out on blankets, Mason said. She later died.
Mason said he wished he could have done more to save the little girl.
"'I feel like crying,' I told my co-worker," Mason said. "Because of the loss."
'It's hard to describe. We are very emotional.' —St. Theresa Point First Nation Chief David McDougall
A band official told CBC News the constable was overcome with grief when he found out the little girl died. He went home, cried and held his own child, the official said.
Chief David McDougall said the community is rallying together to support the family whose child died.
"It's hard to describe. We are very emotional," he said.
St. Theresa Point is about 500 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.