Tataskweyak teenager overwhelmed by community response after saving children from apartment fire

Shenika Chornoby, 17, says she is grateful for the nurses who helped her recover from the fire.  She will return home soon after her recovery at HSC Children's Hospital in Winnipeg.  (Joanne Roberts/CBC - photo credit)

Shenika Chornoby, 17, says she is grateful for the nurses who helped her recover from the fire. She will return home soon after her recovery at HSC Children’s Hospital in Winnipeg. (Joanne Roberts/CBC – photo credit)

A 17-year-old girl continues to recover after helping rescue several children from a burning First Nation apartment complex in northern Manitoba a week ago.

On the afternoon of February 11, Shenika Chornoby went to work in her home community of Tataskweyak Cree Nation, 700 km north of Winnipeg.

She felt uneasy and stopped to look around near a road. She soon noticed a girl and a teenager nearby screaming.

“And then I saw the smoke [coming] from the apartment building,” she told CBC on Friday.

“I went upstairs and in and grabbed two kids,” she said. She took the two children outside to safety.

At that moment, a firefighter from Tataskweyak and several others from a neighboring apartment complex showed up to help with the rescue effort. Eight of them, including Chornoby, went back to the apartment.

The fire spread quickly, she said, but she noticed a two-year-old boy crying in a closet in one of the suites. The firefighter got the boy through a window before everyone else got out.

“I was in there for who knows how long,” Chornoby said. “And then I got out and passed out.”

Submitted by Roddy Chartrand

Submitted by Roddy Chartrand

Chornoby, who has asthma, collapsed from smoke inhalation and required CPR from a bystander who dislocated her shoulder and damaged her rib cage.

She and the two-year-old boy were flown to Winnipeg HSC Children’s Hospital, where she woke up three days later.

“It’s very blurry,” she said.

“A lot of people were worried and surprised that I made it because I was the first in that fire.”

“Overwhelming” community response

She is now discharged from the hospital and will be returning home soon. She said it felt good to go back and that she missed her school and her teachers.

“Everyone says they want to see me. I kinda miss her.”

Chornoby is now known as a heroine in her community.

“I honestly just feel normal. It’s kind of overwhelming how many people know me now,” she said.

“I had no adrenaline. I wasn’t scared or upset. I just felt like myself in that moment.”

Tataskweyak chief Taralee Beardy previously told CBC that the apartment fire could have been prevented if her community had had a working fire truck. Your current truck has been inoperable for over a month due to mechanical issues.

Indigenous Services Canada spokesman Nicolas Moquin previously said in an email to CBC on Tuesday that the federal government allocates about $216,000 a year to the Tataskweyak Cree Nation for fire protection and other services.

Chornoby agreed with Beardy, saying many northern communities lacked adequate fire safety resources.

She wants to thank the nurses who helped her recover from the fire but said she would get caught in another fire if it meant saving more lives.

“I can’t let anyone get hurt.”


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