Manitoba

Single mom of 4 lost everything in Dufferin Avenue apartment fire

A single mother of four says she and her kids lost everything in an apartment complex fire in Winnipeg's North End.

3 taken to hospital, Winnipeg Fire and Paramedic Service Chief says

Firefighters battle a blaze in the 600 block of Dufferin Avenue on Tuesday afternoon. (Caroline Barghout/CBC)
A view from the back lane of firefighters battling the blaze in the 600 block of Dufferin Avenue on Tuesday afternoon. (Sara Calnek/CBC)
A single mother of four says she and her kids lost everything in a fire in Winnipeg's North End.

"I don't think they really understand the extent of what happened yet — they just know that we can't go back to the house," said Jessica Thomas, whose apartment suite was destroyed in a fire Tuesday afternoon. 

Emergency crews were called to an apartment complex in the 600 block of Dufferin Avenue just after 1 p.m. Firefighters were seen battling flames and smoke from the blaze, which quickly spread throughout much of the building.

Dufferin Avenue was closed to traffic between McGregor and Parr streets for a time.

Thomas, a full-time student at Red River Collegiate, was at school when the blaze broke out. Her grandmother called and told her to get home as soon as possible.

When she got home, Thomas said she was in disbelief. 

"When I'd seen all the damage, then I knew that me and my kids lost our house and everything in it," she said. "I worked so hard for everything in my house." 

Winnipeg Fire and Paramedic Service Chief John Lane told reporters that three people were taken to hospital, two with minor injuries and one with what he called "moderate" injuries.

Lane said it appears that all three people were inside the suite where the fire began. He added that the blaze spread quickly because the doors of the original suite had been left open.

First reaction

Photographer Ian McCausland said he was driving in the area when he saw flames coming from the building, as well as people standing on the street.

McCausland said he jumped out of his car and started banging on doors in the building, in a bid to get people out.

"With a multi-unit structure like that and there's so many people in such a small area, my first reaction was just to make sure everyone got out safely," he said.

Meanwhile, some neighbours grabbed a ladder to rescue a dog that was stuck in the burning building, McCausland said.

"There was a dog stranded on the second floor, so a whole bunch of people banded together to get that dog down before the fire department arrived," he said.

Families affected

Thomas said it isn't just her family that was impacted by the fire.

"That was my children's home for the past seven years, you know, I'd seen two babies grow up in there," said Thomas. "There were a lot of families that lived in that little strip, so a lot of children don't have their beds to go home to. That's the worst."

Winnipeg's Bear Clan Patrol has stepped up to try and help Thomas and others who lost their homes in the fire.

Clan spokesperson James Favel said the patrol is collecting items to donate to the fire victims.

"Well we're looking for household items," he said. "They don't have cups, pots, pans, bed linens, clothing."

Favel said families in the apartment complex didn't have tenants' insurance.

"Those people were uninsured, so they've lost everything," he said. "It's a big block and all those families are immediately displaced. And without their belongings ... we'll take as much as we can until we feel we have enough."

Anyone interested in donating items through the Bear Clan Patrol can call 204-805-2120 or contact them via email at bearclanmb@hotmail.com

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