A Nova Scotia man was fighting for his life Monday, a day after a fire that swept through his rural home killed four people, including at least two young children, a family member says.
Ervin Olsen, great-grandfather of two children who died in the Pubnico, N.S., blaze, said the father of at least one of the children remains in hospital.
“We’re at the hospital now and … the father is struggling to stay alive,” he said.
The Canadian Red Cross has said the father’s common-law wife is with him in hospital, that their blended family lived in the home and that an infant boy was among those killed in the blaze.
The ferocious blaze cut through the bitter cold early Sunday in the small lobster-fishing community in the province’s southern tip.
Yellow police tape surrounded the charred ruins of the two-storey roadside home that was reduced to a pile of blackened beams after an excavator ripped down several walls to allow fire officials to get inside.
Police are not releasing the identities or details on the number of fatalities. RCMP Cpl. Jennifer Clarke said the fire marshal, the medical examiner’s office and the force’s major crimes unit are all involved in the investigation. But, she said that doesn’t necessarily mean police suspect foul play.
“That doesn’t really speak to the type of incident or mean that it is suspicious,” she said. “It is a complex investigation. We do have those resources, so we are making use of them.”
West Pubnico Fire Chief Gordon Amiro said it could be days before the cause of the fire is known.
“It will probably be the end of the week before we know,” he said Monday. “There was a wood stove in the structure. We presume that’s probably what happened, but we don’t know yet.”
An ambulance was first to arrive on the scene of the house fire, Amiro said, and it took two adult survivors to hospital.
Firefighters arrived at 12:30 a.m. Sunday, about 12 minutes after the call came in, he said.
Flames had already engulfed the house and were “coming through the roof and everywhere,” Amiro said.
“There was no way of going into the house. It was just a matter of putting the fire out,” he said. “There was nothing we could do in that situation.”
In all, five fire departments and 40 firefighters responded to the deadly blaze. Firefighters stayed on the scene for nearly 18 hours — returning late Sunday night to respond to a flare-up, Amiro said.
“It was the longest time I’ve spent at a house fire in my life,” said the veteran firefighter, who has volunteered at the local department for 40 years. “It took us two and a half hours to get the flames down and then we had to put out the hot spots.”
Residents of the area identified the father as a lobster fisherman.
The Canadian Press