Montreal police are looking for at least 6 people after a fire
Police say six people are still missing after a major fire ripped through a historic building in Old Montreal on March 16.
Investigators initially said one person was missing in the blaze which injured nine people.
One of those missing is 18-year-old Charlie Lacroix from Terrebonne, just north of Montreal.
Relatives say she was staying with a friend in an Airbnb on the second floor.
“A friend of my daughter’s told us she had been there the night before so we went to the police station and found she had made two calls to 911 within three minutes saying they couldn’t get out because ‘they were no windows in the bedroom,’ said his father Louis-Philippe Lacroix.
“Hearing this news and having to break it to my boy and to people is truly the worst thing going through as a parent,” Lacroix said.
On Saturday, friends and family of the teenager gathered at the site of the fire, where a makeshift memorial has grown.
People have started laying flowers outside the building where a major fire broke out on March 16, 2023. Six people are still missing and authorities fear their bodies are in the rubble. (Olivia O’Malley/CTV News)
“I don’t believe it. I’m in complete denial. I don’t want it to be true. I just want to wake up and have it be a bad dream,” Lacroix’s friend Kelly Ann Seguin said.
Lacroix said authorities have not found her daughter’s body, but members of the Montreal Fire Department (SSIM) and Montreal Police (SPVM) arson squad held a conference to press on Saturday morning and confirmed that at least six people are missing and may be in the building. .
“The information validated in recent hours, from various sources, suggests that there could be victims inside the rubble,” said SIM captain Martin Guilbault.
Among those missing is 75-year-old photographer Camille Maheux, who lived in the building for 30 years.
CHALLENGES FOR INVESTIGATORS
Firefighters have not yet been able to enter the building which housed an architecture firm and residences.
“At the moment, it is not possible to carry out a security search in the building, which must first be secured,” Guilbault said.
“Over the weekend, officials will work on a response plan to allow our teams to conduct a search safely while trying to preserve the heritage structure,” he said.
Guilbault said authorities still don’t know where or how the fire started, and an analysis is underway at the 15-unit building in Place d’Youville.
Montreal Police Arson Commander Steve Belzil said investigators were focused on gathering information from people who lived in the building. He added that they had already met the hospitalized people.
“For the moment, we are not talking about arson. He was transferred (to the police) because we have reason to believe that there are victims, deaths.”
Two of the nine injured people are still hospitalized at the Burns Center of the University of Montreal Hospital Center (CHUM), said Mr. Belzil.
UNAUTHORIZED AIRBNB UNITS
Some of the apartments were Airbnb units.
Montreal city bylaws require building owners to acquire a classification certificate for short-term rentals like Airbnb.
Montreal City Councilor Alain Vaillancourt is responsible for public safety, and he said no certificate had been issued for the building in question.
“There is only a certain area here in Ville Marie where you can have Airbnbs on Sainte Catherine [Street]; it’s not one,” Vaillancourt said. “Ville Marie has never received a permit request for an Airbnb here, and there have never been any complaints about an Airbnb in this building.”
Alina Kuzmina and her husband were sleeping in a unit they had rented on Airbnb when the fire broke out.
They escaped by jumping out of a basement window.
“Once I got out of the window, I looked to the right and saw a person who had just jumped out of the window on the second floor,” Kuzmina said.
She says they saw smoke coming through the door but never heard an alarm.
“If the fire alarm had gone off, we probably wouldn’t have had to risk our lives, and we might have had time to salvage more stuff because a lot of our stuff was left in there,” he said. she declared.
Alina Kuzmina and her husband escaped through a basement window as the historic building in Old Montreal caught fire on March 16, 2023. (Credit: Alina Kuzmina)
With files from The Canadian Press.
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