Gaspé seniors home residents escape fast-moving fire

Twenty seniors have to find a new place to live after fire destroyed the Résidence Bonaventure on Sunday.

No sprinklers, home not connected to municipal water system

Firefighters, including several from neighbouring communities, were on the scene of seniors home fire in Bonaventure on Sunday. (Jules Whittom)

People in Bonaventure, Que., are thankful for the quick response that helped dozens of seniors safely escape the Résidence Bonaventure home on Sunday.

Thirty residents managed to escape the home, located on Highway 132 in Bonaventure along the Baie des Chaleurs after the fire started Sunday afternoon. 

"We were very lucky that no one was hurt or missing," Roch Audet, mayor of Bonaventure, said after the fire.

"The great majority of the residents are doing well, but some are in shock."

Pierre Fournier, one of the residents, was outside walking with his son when the fire started. 

His wife was inside where there was music.

"It happened pretty fast," he said. "We looked and saw smoke rising. We turned around and went to see."

"Everything burned." 

Fire destroyed the Résidence Bonaventure home for seniors on Sunday. (Jules Whittom)

The owner of the residence, Magella Arbour, also lives in the building.

He helped get some of the last residents out. 

"The smoke was getting more and more dense. I started running and I took a wheelchair and helped take out one man. There was a thick cloud of smoke," said Arbour, who also lives in the building.

He and the man passed through the smoke and then he left him in a safe place.

Arbour said he went "running to find André. He was the last one left."

Sixty firefighters, including some from neighbouring communities assisted with the fire. 

The building was completely destroyed.

The residents were first bused to a local church, and then taken to a motel where Red Cross and provincial health officials were onsite to help them. 

No sprinkler system, not connected to town water system

The residence did not have a sprinkler system at the time of the fire.

As of Dec. 2, 2015, most private seniors' home in Quebec have five years to install a sprinkler system.

Quebec made them mandatory following the coroner's inquiry into the 2014 deadly fire in l'Isle-Verte which killed 32 people.

Smaller homes, such as those with fewer than 16 residents, are exempted from the rule.

​Audet said the facility is in a zone where buildings are not connected to the municipal water system. 

Even if the home had sprinklers and was connected to the water supply, there wouldn't have necessarily been enough pressure for them to work properly, he said.

"We are in the process of working with the government to have another water reserve for the village to ensure that there is enough pressure for sprinklers. Therefore, we hope to have news on this soon," Audet said. 

Thirty residents forced out of seniors home after fire in Bonaventure destroyed the building. Twenty will need to find a new home. (Radio-Canada)

Personal items lost, 20 people without a home

Audet said many of the residents were upset to lose all of their personal effects.

But they are all safe, and "still able to see their grandchildren. That's important."

About 20 of the residents are in need of new housing. 

Audet said the municipality will work to find the residents new places to live.

with files from Brigitte Dubé, Léa Beauchesne and Ariane Perron Langlois