Residents of a small Quebec town are devastated after a family of six died in a house fire
Mélanie Jalbert’s six-year-old son often played with the neighbors’ children in the summer.
But next summer he has to look for new playmates.
“He doesn’t really understand that his friends are gone,” Jalbert said.
Six bodies were pulled from the remains of their neighbor’s home after a violent fire ravaged the property early Thursday morning in the town of Saint-Jacques, Que., south of Rawdon and about 60 kilometers north of Montreal in the Lanaudière region.
Jalbert said she heard some type of explosion around 12:30 p.m. She said she looked out her window and saw her neighbor’s house on fire. She called 911.
The fire brigade arrived at the Rang du Cordon around 1 a.m. and started fighting the fire. The bodies were found inside, now the provincial police are investigating.
Sûreté du Québec spokesman Sgt. Éloïse Cossette said Monday that provincial investigators are still working to figure out what caused the fire, but it’s believed it was an accident.
“The investigation is ongoing,” she said. “There’s nothing new to say about that.”
Stuffed animals and handmade signs were placed on a fence outside the burned home on Monday morning, as Jalbert tearfully described the family as friendly and active in the community.
She said she now gets nervous when she hears loud noises and has trouble sleeping when thinking about family.
“I’m so sorry for her family and friends,” Jalbert said. “It’s so unfortunate.”
The parents were Alex Guillemette, 27, and Catherine Bouchard-Paulin, 28, but police are not naming their minor children.
The city pays tribute to the victims
Josyanne Forest, mayor of Saint-Jacques, said she doesn’t know the family, but the city held a vigil Monday night to pay their respects to those who died and show their support to victims’ families.
Around 100 people attended the vigil at City Hall. Media were not allowed within the event.
Throughout the afternoon people visited City Hall and stopped by to sign a book of condolence. Flags flew at half-staff in memory of the family.
Forest said earlier in the day her community is small, with only about 4,200 residents, and now everyone is talking about the tragedy. She said it was hard to believe something so terrible had happened in her own hometown.
It’s particularly difficult because four children were among the victims, she said, and it comes shortly after another tragedy that claimed the lives of two children.
The day before the fire, a city bus crashed into a daycare center in the nearby town of Laval, Que.
“It’s a bunch of kids again,” Forest said. “That’s why it’s more difficult.”