Residents evacuated, six taken to hospital, in fire at seniors centre
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Six seniors were taken to hospital and 25 were assessed by paramedics after fire broke out in an eight-storey North End seniors residence early Thursday.
The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service said many residents with disabilities were trapped in their suites by heavy smoke and flames in the St. Josaphat Selo-Villa at 114 McGregor St.
Firefighters helped the residents escape around 1:20 a.m.
All the seniors taken to hospital were in stable condition.
Milagros Plested, a 75-year-old resident of the building, which is owned by Manitoba Housing but managed by the Knights of St. Josaphat Inc., heard a loud bang before the alarm blared.
Plested said she and others headed down the stairwells, parts of which became icy.
“It was really tough,” she said of the slippery stairs. “I’m just praying this never happens again.”
The building, including her eight-floor suite, still smells like smoke, she said.
“I’m a person who’s worried about other people,” Plested said.
She planned to make coffee for residents who were also able to return to their suites.
Acting property manager Andrew Radawetz said four residents who were trapped in their third-floor suites had to escape through their windows with help from firefighters.
“It was a family of three from Ukraine — a mother, daughter and grandmother — and a person in another suite,” Radawetz said. “The family had already been evacuated from Ukraine and now they were evacuated from here.
“I am very grateful there were no casualties. It could have been a lot worse.”
Radawetz said the third floor is heavily damaged and residents in all 16 suites will have to live elsewhere until repairs are completed.
“The entire third floor is uninhabitable,” he said. “The first two floors are damaged because the water went down all the way to the basement.
“The building has quite a lot of damage from smoke and water.”
Radawetz said the building, which was constructed in 1977 and has 121 units, is insured.
The fire was declared under control just after 2 a.m. Residents sat on city buses to stay warm in the bitter cold temperatures.
The city’s social services team went to the scene to assist 15 residents who will need to temporarily stay elsewhere .
A provincial spokesman said affected tenants have been given temporary accommodations elsewhere.
Manitoba Housing is working with its partners to secure accommodations for third-floor tenants while repairs are done, the spokesman said.
On Thursday morning, the McGregor Street sidewalk outside the home was coated with centimetres-thick layers of ice and sand.
A third-storey window was broken and ice coated the side of the building; other windows were open to air out the smell of smoke.
Firefighters believe the blaze was caused by an electrical issue. The fire service said it does not yet have a dollar estimate of the damage.
— with files from Erik Pindera
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.
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