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This article was published 19/1/2011 (3740 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
THE tragic death of a young child at the Long Plain First Nation last year has sparked the installation of smoke detectors into the majority of homes there.
But even the fire chief at Long Plain doesn't think a working smoke detector would have helped at a blaze that claimed the life of a two-month-old baby in St. Theresa Point last Sunday.
"It would have been well involved in the attic," fire chief Randy Merrick said on Wednesday.
Merrick said by the time the smoke alarm would have gone off the fire would have broken through the ceiling and the occupants would already have known they had to escape from the blaze.
"But a smoke detector is still your first defence in your home," he said.
Six children aged 13 years to two months were in a home in the northern reserve on Jan. 16 when their grandmother stepped out for a minute to check on her elderly parents next door.
Almost immediately the fire broke out and the four older children escaped, leaving behind girls aged two months and 16 months.
A valiant effort by band Const. Timothy Mason -- who went in through a window and crawled on his hands and knees in dense smoke -- saved the older girl, but he was pulled back by firefighters before he could go back in to find the baby he heard crying. The baby was finally pulled out after two area residents showed up with chainsaws and cut a large hole in the outside wall of the house.
Neither the chief of the reserve or band councillors have returned calls for comment.
At Long Plain, two-year-old Curtis Laporte died after being pulled out of a burning home there on May 1.
RCMP discovered the fire during their patrol and found a father and two of his young children, aged five and four, standing outside at about 10:15 p.m. The father said another child was still inside the burning home.
In the wake of the tragedy, Merrick vowed to do a fire audit of every home in the reserve. Merrick said that audit is complete and dozens of homes have already had fire alarms installed.
"We have over 300 units here and while new residences were all up to code with smoke detectors, older ones didn't have them," he said.
"We're still in the process of putting them in, but we just have to bulk purchase more and we just put in another 60. Then it will be just a matter of doing followups and checking."
Merrick said because many residents had disconnected their smoke alarms because they were too sensitive, they took that into account with the new ones.
"We have a hush button on it so people keep them up now," he said.
Merrick said the tragic irony is the home where Laporte was living also had a smoke detector -- and it was in working order.
"It had melted and it was lying right below where it had been," he said.
"I don't know why we didn't get the call earlier. If we'd got the call five minutes earlier we could have done something about the child."
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.