A three-story nursing home in the rural community of L’Isle-Verte, Quebec, Canada, was the scene of tragedy and bravery on Thursday as firefighters battled the blaze that broke out on the second floor of Residence du Havre. The fire quickly spread throughout the building. Rapid escalation of the fire along with thick smoke, frozen equipment and subzero temperatures combined to hamper rescue efforts.
Twenty people were rescued, but many more are unaccounted for. The all-wood, 52-unit facility is home to many seniors with Alzheimer’s disease and others with limited mobility. The residents who escaped the fire lived in the facility’s new east wing, which has a firewall separating it from the older wing, which only had a partial sprinkler system.
“It burned. It burned. It was so engulfed in fired,” Mario Michaud told NBC News. He saw a woman on the second floor go out on her balcony. Her son had a ladder but couldn’t get to her.
The search will resume today, and it will be difficult in subzero temperatures. But officials and the community are committed to sifting through the ashes to find everyone who may be buried there.
This tragedy will reopen the debate on Canada's fire safety regulations.