An inspector with the Office of the Fire Commissioner looks over the scene on Saturday afternoon after a fatal house fire on the 500-block of Ross Avenue on Friday night. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
A charred structure is all that remains after a house fire claimed the life of a 32-year-old man and displaced a family.
Officials said the single-detached house on the 500-block of Ross Avenue was fully engulfed when emergency crews arrived on the scene after receiving a call at 11 p.m. on Friday.
According to neighbours, the white rental house had been occupied by a single mother and at least four children.
None of the children were in the house at the time of the fire on Friday night, which officials said started on a couch on the lower level of the two-floor house.
Although the mother was not known to some of the immediate neighbours, two of the children, a boy in Grade 4 and a girl in Grade 7, are friends with some neighbourhood children and the kids are often seen playing outside.
Family members, including cousins and uncles, and the mother’s boyfriend, were apparently regular visitors to the home.
"People come and go," said a nearby resident.
It’s unclear where the children were at the time of the blaze, but the father of the children lives in Winnipeg and it is unclear where they are staying at the moment.
The displaced family has been living in the house for several years.
A family who lives nearby was dogsitting for the couple who lives next door to the home and one member described a smoke-filled scene as they drove up.
"I saw the front door was open and the flames were on the floor joist up top," said the neighbour.
"You couldn’t see anything. It was just smoke everywhere."
Other neighbours say the family is quiet and doesn’t have large parties that draw attention from the neighbours.
One of the children’s friends said some occupants do smoke indoors during the colder winter days.
Maintenance wasn’t kept up on the rental house, according to nearby residents, save for a new facade replaced recently and the removal of a front deck.
Police said there was four people in the house when the fire started and smoke was reportedly coming from the lower floor where the couch was on fire.
"The flames were going up onto the roof, they were travelling up onto the roof ... it was like pouring out, it was crazy," said one of the children’s friends who watched the blaze for about two hours.
Attempts to extinguish the couch fire by those inside were made before three of the four residents escaped outside.
The fourth occupant did not make it outside with the others and remained unaccounted for until the flames were under control.
According to Brandon Fire and Emergency Services Capt. Kevin Groff, there were large flames and heavy smoke billowing from the residence when firefighters arrived.
The fire caused roughly $300,000 in damage to the home, which includes about $50,000 worth of damage to the contents.
After more than 11 firefighters battled the blaze for three hours, investigators were able to enter the building. They found the body of a 32-year-old man, whose name has not been released, on the main level of the house. Groff said the man died as a result of smoke inhalation.
Officials were on scene until around 6 a.m. on Saturday looking for hot spots and flare-ups. A security guard was patrolling the property on Sunday afternoon.
The Office of the Fire Commissioner and Brandon Police Service continue to investigate.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 11, 2013