CHESTERMERE, Canada: Seven people, including four young children, of two Muslim families, were killed Friday when a fire ripped through a home in Chestermere, Alberta. The cause of the fire, which ranks among the deadliest in Canada in recent years, was not immediately known.
The fire happened at 2:30 a.m. on Friday when neighbours heard a “loud bang” at a home in the 300 block of Oakmere Close in Chestermere, about 14 kilometres east of Calgary. Photos from the scene showed that the back of the home was destroyed.
“Two related family units were in the home at the time of the fire,” Alberta RCMP said in a statement on Friday afternoon.
“One adult male and four children were able to escape the fire; tragically, seven other occupants were unable to.”
Those killed were identified as a man and a woman in their late 30s, a 35-year-old woman, a boy and a girl aged 12, an 8-year-old girl, and a 4-year-old boy. The five people who survived the fire were assessed by paramedics, and the four children were taken to the hospital as a precaution.
“The cause of the fire remains under investigation by Chestermere RCMP; however, the preliminary investigation does not indicate it to be criminal in nature,” RCMP said in the statement, adding that autopsies will be carried out in the coming days.
Chestermere Mayor Marshall Chalmers described the loss of seven people as “overwhelming” and expressed his gratitude to first responders. “Words cannot effectively express the devastation on our community,” he said. “Our hearts ache for this family, this neighbourhood, and the community at large.”
Pakistan Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri expressed grief over the incident.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims of this tragic incident. We also pray for quick and full recovery of the injured.”
The spokesperson further stated that the country’s consulate general in Vancouver was in contact with Canadian authorities to ascertain the facts leading to the incident.
He said officials were also in contact with the bereaved family to extend assistance to them.
He claimed that the cause of the fire was unknown, adding the authorities had ruled out the involvement of a criminal act.
Canada drew the world’s attention last month following the killing of a Pakistan-origin family in Ontario.
The family lost members from three generations after it was targeted in a “religiously-motivated” attack when a pick-up truck ran over them in the south of Canada’s Ontario province while they were waiting on the sidewalk to cross the road. Police said the family fell prey for being Muslim and the attack appeared to be a “premeditated” one.