House fire a brush with death

Condo-project ar­son spreads

Winnipeg Free Press - SundayXtra - - LAW & ORDER - By Kevin Rol­la­son

TRAPPED be­tween flames on their front porch and on the wheel­chair ramp in the rear, Neda Proc­ner could only think of two things: she wasn’t go­ing to leave her sis­ter, who uses a wheel­chair, and they were go­ing to die.

That’s when Win­nipeg fire­fight­ers sprayed wa­ter onto the roof over the front porch and a fire­fighter broke through their front door.

“The emer­gency staff were amaz­ing,” Proc­ner said Satur­day, look­ing at her heav­ily dam­aged home of 21 years just hours af­ter the or­deal.

“We wouldn’t be alive if not for them. Every­thing hap­pened in five min­utes, from the time I got up to when we got out.”

Proc­ner and her sis­ter He­len live next door to a con­do­minium be­ing con­structed at Mary­land Street and West­min­ster Av­enue, which po­lice be­lieve was set on fire early Satur­day.

The flames spread to Proc­ner’s house next door on Mary­land and jumped across the back lane, heav­ily dam­ag­ing an­other house on West­min­ster at about 3:40 a.m.

Proc­ner said the en­tire fam­ily in that house — in­clud­ing a baby born a few months ago — also es­caped be­fore the struc­ture was gut­ted.

She said she was asleep in her third-floor bed­room when she awoke to the sounds of “crack­ling noises” and saw an or­ange glow com­ing through the win­dow.

When Proc­ner made her way down­stairs and looked out the back win­dow, she saw an elec­tri­cal panel on the house be­hind on fire and saw sparks and flames on the wooden wheel­chair ramp out­side. She ran to her sis­ter’s first-floor bed­room.

“I told my sis­ter — who was now up — we have to get out. I called 911 and said the house next door is on fire, and my sis­ter is in a wheel­chair. They said some­one had al­ready called and they were on their way.

“We went to the front door, but the front porch was in flames, so we couldn’t get out. That’s when I saw the fire­fight­ers show up.

“They couldn’t see us. I opened the (in­ner) door to call them, and so much smoke came in and I had to put my arm up over my nose. I looked around and couldn’t see my sis­ter be­cause of the smoke. Then they sprayed wa­ter over the roof of the porch.

“That’s when the fire­fighter broke through the door and yelled at me to get out. They pulled me out right away. I rushed across the road to a neigh­bour’s. I didn’t know if my sis­ter was still alive. But they car­ried her out. “Her wheel­chair is still in the house, melted.” Proc­ner, her sis­ter and four fire­fight­ers were taken to hospi­tal to be treated for mi­nor burns and smoke in­hala­tion. All were later listed in stable con­di­tion.

Win­nipeg Fire District Chief Greg Can­nell said the fire­fight­ers were in­jured res­cu­ing the woman in the wheel­chair and fight­ing the blaze.

Can­nell said there is no dam­age es­ti­mate yet, but the un­fin­ished condo was com­pletely de­stroyed, and they also con­sider the other two houses write­offs.

He said the cause of the fire is con­sid­ered sus­pi­cious, and it is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by the ar­son unit.

Win­nipeg po­lice closed West­min­ster and Mary­land to traf­fic for sev­eral hours Satur­day.

Man­i­toba Hy­dro also cut off elec­tric­ity to the en­tire block.

Can­nell said be­cause of the pos­si­bil­ity the fire was caused by ar­son, po­lice and fire per­son­nel also checked a sim­i­lar con­do­minium un­der con­struc­tion fur­ther down on Mary­land, be­side the his­toric Woodsworth House, and found it to be fine.

Win­nipeg po­lice said they also evac­u­ated sev­eral

PHOTOS BY JA­SON HALSTEAD / WIN­NIPEG FREE PRESS

Fire­fight­ers work at the scene of a mas­sive overnight blaze that started in an un­der- con­struc­tion condo build­ing and spread to neigh­bour­ing homes.

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