‘We lost two great retirees’: Sanford couple, both 65, dead after house fire

A volunteer firefighter sprang into action when a Sanford, Man., home caught fire late Wednesday night, but the blaze was too far along to save the elderly couple inside.

A man and a woman, both aged 65, are dead after a fire at their longtime home in the community, which is about 30 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg.

RM of Macdonald fire chief Mike Siemens said an off-duty firefighter was the first to notice the smoke and call 911. He ran over and kicked the door in, but the smoke and heat was too much.

His colleagues arrived around 11 p.m. to extinguish the blaze. The floors collapsed and so did part of the roof, he said.

An off-duty firefighter reported the fire after seeing smoke coming from this house on River Crescent, according to RCMP. (Submitted by Ryan Sotheran)

“The couple has been here for many years, raised their kids here. My firefighters, at least half of the firefighters, knew the couple,” Siemens said, “so that is tough.” 

He said it wasn’t until after the fire that crews knew the residents were still inside, Siemens said.

A neighbour, Ryan Sotheran, was alerted to the billowing smoke from the same firefighter, knocking on his door.

“I entered through the garage and I couldn’t get any lights on or see anything, and there was already smoke in the garage, so that’s when I came back out,” he said.

Sotheran was left across the street, feeling helpless.

“We lost two great retirees that grew up in the community and have lots of family in the community,” he said. “There’s no funerals now, so it’s going to be probably hard on the community to get together.”

RCMP and the fire commissioner’s officers are investigating the cause of the fire. (Ian Froese/CBC)

It was a difficult call for emergency responders to attend to, RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Paul Manaigre said.

“You never know the extent of what you’re responding to until you arrive,” he said.

“But obviously the day before, a couple of days before Christmas, it’s definitely tragic for everyone, [including] the families involved. You hate to see that.”

Stonewall/Headingley RCMP and the fire commissioner’s officers are investigating what caused the fire, though Manaigre said there’s no indication of any suspicious activity.

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