Family trapped in burning Winnipeg home rescued by roofing crew

A group of Call Me Roofing employees sprang into action when they saw smoke and heard children’s screams coming from a house across the street from where they were working.

Aaron Gosselin, 20, and his co-worker Caylib Cote, 28, were working on the roof of a home in the Winnipeg suburb of Transcona just before 7 p.m. on Tuesday when Cote noticed smoke coming from a house across the street.

It wasn’t long before they heard screams coming from the house on Ravelston Avenue, Gosselin said.

“That just made my heart sink,” he said, noting he wanted to help. “There wasn’t really any thinking, at the point in time, for our safety.”

Their colleague Stephane Doerksen, who was on a ladder, called 911, while the other employees ran to the house to help those inside. 

“By the time we got there, the house was already engulfed in flames. It was very quick,” Gosselin said, adding that the vinyl siding was melting.

“My first thought was to help,” Gosselin said. “It could be anybody’s family, it could be my family, so I just didn’t really think too much about my safety.”

Escape through window 

Cote said he originally couldn’t see much because of the smoke. 

Cote and Gosselin soon realized a man and his kids were trying to escape through a basement window but were having trouble breaking the glass. 

Gosselin said his co-workers used their hammers to smash the glass. They helped pull the kids through the small window first and then helped the man. 

“I grabbed his left arm, while my other workers were grabbing his shirt and his other arm,” Gosselin said. “It was really close.”

Two homes with significant fire damage.
People were injured during a house fire in the Transcona suburb of Winnipeg. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

The men took the family across the street to safety, and went to the house next door to make sure no one was inside, before giving the family first aid. Gosselin said the man’s feet were badly burned, while the children also had burns and gashes on their arms, likely from the broken window glass. 

Two older children managed to get out of the house on their own, he said. 

“They were quite shaken up.”

Gosselin and Cote said they think firefighters and paramedics arrived within two to three minutes of the 911 call. 

Paramedics assessed the family, who were then taken to hospitals in stable condition, the City of Winnipeg said in a news release earlier this week. 

Two homes were significantly damaged by the fire, which is still under investigation, the release said. 

Grateful everyone made it out 

Gosselin said he and his team members weren’t injured. He said he’s grateful everyone was able to make it out safely. 

“That’s the scary part. We don’t know what would have happened to them,” Gosselin said. 

“I mean, maybe someone else could have jumped in and helped out. We were just glad we were there at the right time.”

Close up shot of window of fire damaged home.
The house was damaged in the fire. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

They’d like to connect with the family to see how they’re doing, but haven’t been able to do that yet, Gosselin said. 

The next day, the team was back working on the roof of the house across the street.

Cote said the experience wouldn’t stop him from roofing and added that he was sure his team would lend a hand again if anyone needed help in the future. 

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