Fire in Old Montreal fire: Seven people missing, partial demolition planned
Police say the number of people missing has since risen from six to seven A massive fire broke out in a historic building in Old Montreal Thursday.
Partial demolition of the building will begin Sunday morning, police and firefighters said in a statement to the media Saturday night.
They believe that victims will be found under the rubble.
The second and third floors of the 15-unit building on Place d’Youville will be demolished “stone by stone,” Montreal fire chief Martin Guilbeau said.
Due to safety reasons, firefighters have not yet managed to enter the building.
The partial demolition will be done slowly to protect workers and preserve the building’s heritage, Guilbeau said.
Montreal police arson commander Steve Belzile said it was too early to say whether the fire was criminal.
The owner of the building is cooperating with investigators, Belzil said.
FAMILIES FEAR THE WORST
One of the missing is Charlie Lacroix, 18, of Terrebonne, north of Montreal.
Those close to her say she was staying with a friend on the second floor in an Airbnb.
“My daughter’s friend told us she had been there the night before, so we went to the police station and found out she had called 911 twice in three minutes saying they couldn’t get out because there were no windows in the room.” said his father, Louis Philippe Lacroix.
“Hearing this news and having to tell my son and people is seriously the worst thing I could ever go through as a parent,” Lacroix said.
Friends and family of the teenager gathered at the scene of the fire on Saturday, where a makeshift memorial has been erected.
People started laying flowers in front of the apartment building where a big fire broke out on March 16, 2023. Six people remain missing and authorities fear their bodies may be buried under the rubble. (Olivia O’Malley/CTV News)
“I don’t believe it. I am in complete denial. I don’t want it to be true. I just want to wake up and it’s 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 the Montreal Police Department (SPVM) arson squad held a news conference Saturday morning and said there may be victims in the building.
“In the last few hours, confirmed information received from various sources allows us to believe that there may be victims inside the rubble,” said SIM Captain Martin Guilbeau.
Among the missing is 75-year-old photographer Camille Maho, who lived in the building for 30 years.
Two of the nine victims are still hospitalized at the burn center of the University Hospital of Montreal (CHUM).
UNAUTHORIZED AIRBNB UNITS
On Saturday, police confirmed some of the apartments were Airbnb units.
Montreal bylaws require building owners to obtain a classification certificate for short-term rentals such as Airbnb.
Montreal city councilor Alain Vaillancourt is responsible for public safety, and he said there are no certificates issued for the building.
“Here in Ville Marie, there’s only a certain area where you can have Airbnbs in Saint Catherine [Street]; this is not one of them,” Vaillancourt said. “Ville Marie has never received an Airbnb permit here, and there have never been any Airbnb complaints in this building.
Alina Kuzmina and her husband were sleeping in a unit rented on Airbnb when the fire broke out.
They escaped by jumping from the basement window.
“Once I got out of the window, looked to the right, and saw a man who just jumped from the window of the second floor,” Kuzmina said.
He says they saw smoke coming from 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 maybe we would have had time to get more stuff because a lot of our stuff was left there,” he said.
Alina Kuzmina and her husband escaped through a basement window when the historic Old Montreal building caught fire on March 16, 2023. (Source: Alina Kuzmina)
With Canadian press files.
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