A 20-year-old woman died and a 21-year-old man suffered severe burns after a house fire on Centennial Drive East in Thompson’s Southwood neighbourhood Jan. 24.
Manitoba RCMP said in a Jan. 26 news release that two other residents of the home got out with the assistance of neighbours and police.
Thompson Fire & Emergency Services (TFES) firefigthers were unable to rescue the woman inside due to the extreme fire conditions. Her body was found inside the remains of the home Jan. 25. RCMP said an autopsy was scheduled to determine her identity but Catherine Swain-Vinci told CBC it was her daughter Tyra Keeper.
The fire was reported by multiple people around 6:15 a.m., RCMP said. RCMP officers were the first emergency personnel to arrive on the scene and they helped neighbours pull an 89-year-old woman to safety through a first-floor window. She told them there may be more people inside. Neighbours instructed a 61-year-old male occupant to jump to safety from a first-floor window.
RCMP acknowledged "the brave and selfless community members who rushed towards the burning home within the first few minutes to aid those in danger.” Todd Burnside was one of the nieghbours who assisted rescue efforts but he declined to comment further on his actions out of respect for the affected family. Four RCMP officers who attended the scene were treated for smoke inhalation.
The City of Thompson and TFES extended their condoloences to the families affected by the fire and the loss of a loved one in a Jan. 27 press release and acknowledged the RCMP, the Thompson General Hospital, the Northern Regional Health Authority and the residents who assisted firefigthers in responding to the fire.
"I am proud of the response from our firefighters," said TFES Chief Mike Bourgon. "Responding to an incidetn like this is our worst nightmare, and our hearts go out to the families that are affected by this incident."
The 21-year-old male escaped by fleeing through the Flames. He was identified as Keith Blacksmith, the captain of the Keystone Junior Hockey League’s Nisichawyasihk Cree Nation (NCN) Flames, in a Facebook post by his mother Cheryl Blacksmith, who said that he suffered burns to 70 per cent of his body. He was transported to Thompson General Hospital and then to Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg for further treatment. His mother said on Facebook Jan. 26 that he was in stable condition.
TFES personnel were still at the house as of 10:30 a.m. Friday morning, as clouds of smoke continued to billow from the roof and out of the home's rear windows, which all appeared smashed and burnt. An RCMP vehicle was blocking traffic near the scene on Centennial Drive East.
The Office of the Fire Commissioner and Thompson RCMP continue to investigate the cause of the fire.