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One boy dead and up to 100 others left homeless after Brampton fire

Posted by Oped 1230 days ago Toronto Star| one boy dead left homeless brampton fire All
http://www.thestar.com — Nicolas Gabriel used to ride his bike up and down the alleyways of the Brampton townhouse complex that was gutted by fire on Sunday.“He could be quite the little tyrant, as all kids can be,” said Dennis Blenhart, smiling, motioning to the goldfish pond in his backyard that was a popular stop for the 10-year-old Gabriel.“But he was a good kid . . . I’m going to miss him being around,” said Blenhart, starring at the pond.Gabriel died in Sunday’s blaze, the only fatality of the two-alarm fire that destroyed at least 18 units and left 80 to 100 residents homeless. Gabriel was sleeping over at the unit where the fire started. His parents and grandparents also live in the complex, but their houses were not directly affected.Terri Chad, Gabriel’s aunt, briefly spoke to reporters Sunday afternoon on behalf of the family. She said they were devastated, and asked for privacy in their time of grief.Dozens of units from Brampton Fire battled the aggressive flames at 59 Ardglen Dr., as hundreds of residents fled from their homes or were forced to evacuate. Deputy Fire Chief Michael Clark said the fire probably started in the kitchen area of unit 89, where Gabriel was staying. The flames had spread to both levels of the house by the time firefighters arrived. “We had an early indication that a young boy was still inside the townhouse,” Clark said. “Crews made a rapid, aggressive attack . . . but nevertheless they weren’t able to make entry.”The fire moved quickly along the roofline in both directions, consuming several homes. Residents took shelter in local buses while firefighters extinguished the blaze.Const. Lilly Fitzpatrick said a total of 200 to 300 people were evacuated from the townhouse complex. As of Sunday afternoon, the fire was under control, but Clark said some hot spots meant it remained unsafe for residents to return. “Investigators are going to make sure there’s no structural damage, all of that has to be determined before people can be allowed back into their homes,” Fitzpartick said. “It’s not going to happen overnight.”At a nearby strip mall, emergency personnel gathered evacuees like Jennifer Craig, 32, who lived in the unit next to the one where the fire started. Her boyfriend had to wake her up twice, before she finally realized the world was burning. “There was smoke everywhere. It burned my lungs. All I could feel was fear,” she said, sitting in a blue plastic chair in a parking lot alongside dozens of other displaced residents. The couple fled from the townhouse, heat bearing down on their backs, as the fire ransacked the complex Craig had moved into barely more than a month earlier. Craig’s eight-year-old son was staying at her mom’s that night, so he wasn’t in harm’s way. But Craig, who has yet to see the devastation, could barely contain her tears as she thought about what else she’s lost. “I know it’s just stuff. But it’s stuff I’ve accumulated throughout my entire life,” she said. “My son’s baby albums . . .” She paused, collecting herself. “You just never think this will happen to you.”Jen Polly, 25, remembers a group of her son’s friends, including Gabriel, asking to sleepover yesterday after playing basketball.“They wanted to sleepover at my house,” she said. “I said no my son’s too young.”Polly reflected on the shooting death of nine-year-old Kesean Williams just a year earlier.“I have to explain again to (my son) that another friend from our neighbourhood is gone,” she said. “It just doesn’t make sense.”As rain began to fall on the strip mall, Peel Social Services began directing evacuees to Gibson Recreation Centre, where their shelter, clothing and food needs will be assessed. Although many are being encouraged to reach out to friends and family for shelter, sleeping facilities are also being set up for those with nowhere else to go.
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