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Two Children Dead – No Working Smoke Alarms

The small town of Donnaconna Quebec which is located approximately 45 km from Quebec City was the scene of a fatal fire last Thursday, December 10, 2009. Like Russell the population of Donnaconna is approximately 6,000 people, so as is often the case in small towns, the people who died were well known but many of the residents. Unfortunately in this case the dead were children; Frederique Roberge-Bedard age 9, and Marie-Daphnee Franche age15. At approximately 1 am fire broke out in the house, at the time of writing the cause is still unknown, but initial investigations seem to point to an electrical problem. The mother, who was pregnant at the time saved herself and an infant by jumping out of a second storey window, she also managed to save another of her five children by reentering the house. The two children who perished were trapped in their bedrooms by the flames, however despite pleas for the girls to jump to safety they did not, their bodies were later found by firefighters in the charred remains of the home. The three other children; ages one, seven and eleven, and their parents were taken to a Quebec City hospital to be treated for serious burns and smoke inhalation. Sûreté du Québec Sgt Richard Gagne reported that two smoke alarms were found in the home but neither was working. One did not have a battery, the other was found with a dead battery.


Once again it is unfortunate and terribly sad to be writing about another fatal fire in a home without any working smoke alarms. It is very likely that everyone would have survived this fire if the house was properly equipped with the working smoke alarms that are required by law. In this case the alarms were present but because someone didn’t think to install fresh batteries in them, nine year old Frederique and fifteen year old Marie-Daphnee will not be given the opportunity to fulfill their life’s dreams. Surviving a house fire is all about time, every second counts and smoke alarms give us that early warning and a better chance for survival. Families must understand that it is their responsibility to escape the home in the event of a fire, if you wait for the fire department to save you then your survival is very unlikely. We know from many studies that once a smoke alarm sounds, people have between 60 and 90 seconds to escape the home before conditions make survival unlikely. So by not having working smoke alarms, or if all the smoke alarms in your home are not working that window of opportunity is even smaller. In the case of the family in Donnaconna, they are fortunate that anyone survived, by the time they realized their home was burning they were likely well past the 60 to 90 second window that a smoke alarm would have given them.


Take the time this Christmas to check your smoke alarms and that of your family members, also speak to your friends if you think that they don’t maintain their smoke alarms. It could be the best gift you give this year. The members of the Russell Fire Department wish everyone a safe and happy Christmas.


Published Dec 16, 2009 - The Russell Villager

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