Two women and two young girls have died after five people were pulled from a house fire in Winnipeg's West Kildonan area on Tuesday night.

Family friends have confirmed the names of the deceased as:

  • Zebunesa Sadiq, 33.
  • Shemeem Akhtar, 60.
  • Fayza Peyawary, 9.
  • Aliza Sadiq, 4.

The sole survivor is an infant girl, six-month-old Hoorya Farooq, who remains in critical condition in hospital, health officials told CBC News late Wednesday afternoon.

The children's father, Hamid Farooq, is with Hoorya in hospital.

Winnipeg police are investigating the fire at the home at Woodlark Place near Templeton Avenue. It was reported shortly after 8:30 p.m. CT on Tuesday.

The five occupants had been in critical condition at different hospitals after they were removed from the home.

'Right now it's about praying for the baby … and we take it from there.'—Shahina Siddiqui

Firefighters believe the fire started in the basement of the semi-detached house.

Assistant fire chief Bill Clark said there was fire on every floor of the house and a lot of smoke.

"It was thick, black smoke; dense," Clark told reporters on Wednesday. "It's a pressurized smoke that's emanating and being forced out of the structure."

"To be overcome by smoke with high levels of carbon monoxide in it, it can be just [a] mere couple breaths and you can be rendered unconscious very quickly," he added.

Clark said it is unusual to have so many casualties in a fire that broke out so early. He could not immediately say whether there were working smoke detectors in the house.

Family moved from Pakistan

Neighbours told CBC News the family had moved from Pakistan a few years ago, and the women who died were the mother and grandmother of the young children.

The father works nights and was not home at the time of the fire.

Shahina Siddiqui, of the Islamic Social Services Association, said she visited the father in hospital on Wednesday.

"Right now it's about praying for the baby, giving him [the father] whatever support — he has some family in Montreal who will be coming in — and we take it from there," she said.

Siddiqui said the older woman was the man's mother and was visiting from Pakistan.

Members of Winnipeg's Muslim community will be raising money for the family at some point, but for now they are focusing on providing emotional support, Siddiqui said.

Girl described as friendly

Donna Shields said the nine-year-old girl was very friendly and would frequently visit.

"The girl was telling me that her mommy had another baby. And I said, 'Wow, you're going to have a big family. There must be a lot of happiness in your house,' stuff like that," Shields said.

"She says, 'Oh yeah, we busy, we busy.'"

Valerie Van Ellenberg, who lives in the undamaged other half of the semi-detached home, said she didn't know the family well but felt a special bond with the nine-year-old girl. 

"And I don't know how they are … and I am just praying that each one is alive and will make it," she said before it was learned that four had died.

Counselling being offered

At Forest Park School, where the nine-year-old was a Grade Four student, counsellors were brought in to help students and staff deal with the death.

"Our school counsellor came in on her day off," said Brian O'Leary, superintendent of the Seven Oaks School Division.

"We also brought in some substitute teachers to provide some relief for the teachers who had worked with this child … they were hit pretty hard."

Staff will be phoning the parents of the girl's classmates and talking with them about how to talk with their children about the tragedy, O'Leary said.

Firefighters who battled the Woodlark blaze also underwent critical incident counselling, according to one firefighter whose crew attended to the scene.