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Christmas Eve Group Home Fire Kills Handicapped Man

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The scene of Monday’s fatal house fire was quiet on Wednesday, with the house surrounded by temporary fencing and warnings from investigators not to trespass. (Nathan Gross/CBC)

A fatal fire Christmas Eve in a west Edmonton group home for people with disabilities is a “horrific incident that has tragically impacted the lives of many people,” an official with the agency that runs the home said Wednesday.

Brian Malkinson

Fire rescue spokesperson Maya Filipovic said investigators have ruled the case accidental but they may never figure out the exact cause.

“Our thoughts and deepest condolences are with everyone who has been impacted,” Danica Frazer, executive director of McMan Youth, Family and Community Services Association, Edmonton and North Region, said in a statement to CBC News.

“Since the fire occurred, I and several other members of the management team at McMan have been responding to the crisis,” Frazer said.

“Our focus has been on ensuring timely communication and support to guardians and family members, fulfilling our contractual reporting requirements and providing support to other individuals and staff members.”

Three men and one woman were sent to hospital after a fire tore through the group home around 2 a.m. Monday. The home is located at 166th Street and 90th Avenue in the West Meadowlark neighbourhood.

One person later died. The four patients initially transported to hospital were a man in his 40s in critical, life-threatening condition; a man of an unknown age in critical, life-threatening condition; a man in his 30s in serious condition; and a woman in her 30s in serious condition.

Neighbours said three men with mental and physical disabilities lived in the home. They said workers rotated through the home.

This warning sign has been posted to a temporary fence surrounding the home engulfed by fire early Monday. (Nathan Gross/CBC)

The fire remains under investigation.

The Alberta government said Monday it will review McMan and its policies, including looking at staffing ratios, training and safety procedures.

“In the days and weeks ahead McMan will work closely with all relevant authorities in determining and understanding all of the factors related to the fire,” Frazer said in her statement to CBC.


Fire rescue spokesperson Maya Filipovic said investigators have ruled the case “accidental but they may never figure out the exact cause”.

A similar fire, also caused a vulnerable person to be burned to death in the basement of a Capilano Group home. April 2007.

During that fire, three firefighters were in the basement when the fire created a flashover.
It was reported that gases inside the home reached 1,100 C and ignited, melting parts of their helmets and radios and charring their visors..
It’s was very, very hot, very dark, thick smoke and flashes.

The firefighters had to thread the hose back out of the basement and crawl out to safety. All three were sent home uninjured but severely shaken.

During a Fatality inquiry September 2009, it was learned that the group home did not have a licence and hadn’t been inspected by the fire department.

In regard to this most recent deadly group home fire, we believe a more accurate response is needed than that, that fire rescue spokesperson Filipovic has provided to us.





‘I’m going to have an empty chair beside me’: Church friend remembers men killed in fire at Edmonton group home

    A friend who mentored one of the men killed in a fire at an Edmonton group home on Christmas Eve will remember him for his enthusiastic singing and his kind manner.

    Gord Dykstra said Billy Beloin, who died following a fire at the group home where he lived with two other men and a care worker, was his friend for about 10 years.

    “He loved to sing,” Dykstra said of Beloin, who he mentored one-on-one at a west Edmonton church’s program for adults with disabilities.

    “And he was always thankful, and he always wanted to be helpful. If there was a door to open Billy wanted to open the door for us.”

    The two met over a decade ago at the friendship ministries group at Covenant Christian Reformed Church. Dykstra described the group, which meets on Monday evenings, as a Sunday school for adults with mental disabilities.

    “(Billy) was a big part of our group,” he said. “He likes to sing real loud and he knew a lot of the words. We all knew when Billy was there. I’m going to have an empty chair beside me.”

    Dykstra said a second man — Jason Allinson, also a member of the friendship group — died in hospital following the fire.

    Neither Alberta Health Services nor Edmonton fire officials would confirm a second man had died. Officials do not typically confirm the identities of people who die in fires that are not criminal.

    Edmonton fire crews were called to 16608 90 Ave. at 1:44 a.m. on Christmas Eve. A neighbour across the street called 911 after he saw the flames and heard a woman “yelling ‘My clients are still in there.’”

    McMan Youth Family and Community Services Association, the not-for-profit agency that operates the home, called the fire a “horrific incident.” Fire officials have since said the fire started by accident.

    Health officials initially said a man in his 40s was transported to hospital in critical, life-threatening condition. Another man, whose age was not known, was also fighting for his life in hospital. Two other people were in serious condition.

    Dykstra met Beloin over a decade ago at the friendship group and worked with him one-on-one as a mentor ever since. He said Beloin was born in 1980.

    Beloin had a number of mental and physical disabilities, Dykstra said, including difficulties with his vision.

    “But he knew everybody by voice,” he said. “If you said, ‘Hi Billy,’ (he’d say) ‘Oh Hi Bob, Hi Gord, Hi John.’ Always very friendly. And if he missed a week he’d say ‘I missed you Gord, I missed you.’”

    Dykstra heard about the fire on the radio on Christmas Eve, and later saw a photo online of Beloin’s house. He had picked him up there on a few occasions to go see Oil Kings games.

    He eventually confirmed that his friend Billy had died of his injuries. He later learned that Allinson had also passed away.

    He said the group will miss both men “dearly.”

    “There’s going to be a big hole in our group,” he said.

    Fatality inquiry possible

    Previous deaths in group home fires have been probed by fatality inquiries — a type of legal proceeding that aims to clarify the circumstances of a death and make recommendations about preventing similar deaths.

    Justice and Solicitor General spokeswoman Katherine Thompson said she could not comment on the case for privacy reasons. But typically, she said, the office of the chief medical examiner will conduct a death investigation in such cases.

    The Fatality Review Board can then recommend a case be sent to a fatality inquiry based on information from the medical examiner. However, the results of fatality inquiries often aren’t released for years.

    Next of kin or “interested parties” can also request fatality inquiries, Thompson added.