Standing outside the home where, just a day before, an early morning fire claimed the lives of her brother, his wife and their three young children, Bismah Ali tried to take in the unthinkable.
“I can’t believe I won’t see them again,” Ali said through tears, pleading for others to check that their homes are equipped with working fire alarms.
“My brother and his kids and his wife were full of life. They were really loving and very caring and pure-hearted people … It’s never going to be the same.”
Flames tore through their Brampton, Ont. home around 2 a.m Monday, killing Ali’s brother, 28-year-old Nazir; Raven Ali O’dea, 29; Alia Marilyn Ali O’dea, 10 as well as eight-year-old Jayden Prince Ali O’dea and six-year-old Layla Rose Ali O’dea.
Bonnie O’dea, the children’s grandmother, managed to escape the fire, but remained in hospital Tuesday in critical condition, officials said. Meanwhile, the children’s grandfather, who lives elsewhere, told reporters a day earlier that the home had been undergoing renovations and had no working smoke alarms.
2 generations lost ‘in a blink of an eye’
The Ontario fire marshal’s office is still investigating the cause and origin of the fire as well as whether the home indeed had active smoke alarms.
A GoFundMe page set up by Ali has so far raised over $7,000 for funeral costs.
Hold the ones you love close to you … You are not promised tomorrow.– Bismah Ali
Nazir, the page says, was a loving son and brother to his five siblings. Raven was a caring daughter and sister to her four siblings.
“Our three little angels were their grandparents’ pride and joy. Their smiles would light up the room,” it says. “As a family, we are devastated to lose two generations in a blink of an eye.”
“Hold the ones you love close to you, be grateful for waking up. You are not promised tomorrow.”
Several nearby homes found without active alarms
But even after the tragedy, fire prevention officers in the area Tuesday found several homes had no working alarms, Brampton Fire Chief Bill Boyes told reporters at a news conference.
“We’re finding no working smoke alarms, smoke alarms with batteries removed in this immediate vicinity where five people just died,” he said. “Honestly, it’s completely unacceptable.”
By law, all Ontario homes must have a working smoke alarm on every storey and outside all sleeping areas, he reminded the public.
Besides that, said Fire Marshal Jon Pegg, recently built houses fires burn hotter and faster than older homes, in large part due to the amount of plastic inside them.
“I implore everyone watching,please, right now make sure you have working smoke alarms, a working carbon monoxide alarm and a home escape plan,” Boyes said.
“It’s literally what will save your life in a fire.”
Pegg echoed that plea: “Let’s listen to the family, that the poor grandfather that was here last night and addressed the media … Let’s listen to those words. Let’s challenge ourselves to look at those alarms. They really do save lives.”
Monday’s fire comes two months after a similar tragedy in Brampton.
In January, three young boys, ages nine, 12 and 15, were killed when a fire tore through a townhouse before firefighters could rescue them.
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