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The Heroes of 2020
To the Chez Nous Co-Operative and Wellington Fire Department (and the others who supported them) in their efforts to ensure all 47 residents at the local seniors’ home escaped a Jan. 18 fire without any deaths, we say thank you.
A fire in such a facility could have ended with tragic results had it not been for the efforts of firefighters, the planning of administrators, and the hard work of staff that resulted in a successful evacuation of Chez Nous.
Marcel Richard, president of the long-term care facility in Wellington, said the facility holds regular fire drills, and because of that, the residents knew what to do.
Staff had begun evacuating residents as firefighters arrived. Together, the staff and firefighters worked to ensure the residents, including some with mobility issues, were safely evacuated. The seniors were placed in personal vehicles, RCMP cars and fire trucks to stay warm before the arrival of school buses, manned by off-duty bus drivers who also came to aid the seniors.
After the fire, Wellington Fire Department captain Desmond Arsenault was quick to praise the professionalism of all involved. He said the fire department trains for situations like this, and the staff knew its protocols. Calmness and dedication, he said, played a critical role in getting everyone out safely.
Once out, the residents were examined by EHS and transported to the Wellington Legion and then the Mill River Resort a short time later. Once all the residents were safely out of the building, the focus turned to retrieve medications, equipment and charts from the building.
Arsenault credited outstanding communication between staff and the firefighters going after the supplies.
Arsenault said this wasn't the largest fire his department has fought, but it was one of the more emotional calls they have attended given the number of lives involved. Driving it all home is that in a community as small as Wellington, Arsenault said the firefighters knew a lot of the residents personally.
There are many examples of fires in seniors’ homes in this country including the tragedy in the Résidence du Havre in Quebec in 2014 that killed 32 of the facility's 50 residents, many of whom required wheelchairs and walkers. In Orillia, Ont., in 2009, four people were killed and six others were critically injured when a fire ripped through a facility in that city, and in 1980, 21 seniors died in Mississauga, Ont. In 1976, 22 perished in a Goulds, N.L., senior's facility fire and, deadliest of all, back in 1969, 54 more died in a nursing home in Notre-Dame-du-Lac, Que.
All of these tragedies prove just how lucky we were last week and just how thankful Islanders, especially the families of those at Chez Nous, should be to the firefighters and staff.