EDMONTON — Police say a house fire that killed a five-month old baby and left his 29-year-old mother clinging to life in an Edmonton hospital was deliberately set.
Firefighters responded to the blaze in the two-storey home in the Windermere neighbourhood in southwest Edmonton just before 4 a.m. Tuesday.
Eight people were in the home at the time and six got out safely. Police say all eight were taken to hospital, where the baby boy died.
Candace Worobec said she’s thankful she escaped with her two children, a dog and a kitten. The 35-year-old lived in the basement of the house and awoke to the sound of an alarm and banging.
She thought someone was trying to break into the house. But when she went upstairs to see what was going on, she saw flames and smoke, and she ran back downstairs, screaming “Fire!”
She woke up her seven-year-old boy and five-year-old daughter and she and another man who lived in the basement threw the kids and her dog out a bedroom window. They couldn’t find the kitten because the smoke was waist-deep, she said, but the feline was found safe later.
“I started screaming, ‘We gotta get out of here’ and I look out the window that I threw my kids out of and there was smoke around them outside, so now I’m thinking, ‘how bad is this fire that I can’t even see outside to my kids?’”
Worobec climbed out the window and then helped her roommate get out.
“I looked around and the landlord is hysterically screaming for his wife … when I looked at the house, there was flames coming out of everywhere, out of every opening there was flames, and you could hear things bursting and exploding and there was no way you could get back in, there was absolutely no way, the entire place was engulfed in flames.
“There was nothing I could do to help my landlord. It was horrible, so horrible.”
Worobec said the landlord, Cordell Brown, and his wife Angie Tang are the parents of the baby that died in the fire.
“I just witnessed them singing nursery rhymes to Hunter. They were just so happy, the cutest little family, in the kitchen singing nursery rhymes and now it’s all gone.”
She hasn’t talked to Brown, but her roommate has.
“My roommate says Cordell is just a zombie, just a zombie. My heart is just broken for that family.”
She and her daughter are physically OK. Her son has flash burns on his arm, back and shoulder. Worobec didn’t have renter’s insurance and is going through a divorce. She just moved into the basement at the end of June and was saving up for furniture. Three hundred dollars worth of school supplies were in her place. She now has nowhere to live.
“I can’t really feel sorry for myself because all I can think of is that family, I’m just devastated for them and I don’t know what to do.”
Worobec said a nanny and another man also lived in the house. She said Brown has a strict policy about drugs and drinking and when she moved in, a renter was being kicked out because the landlord found drugs in the man’s bedroom.
“These are good people. When you see them and meet them, the living situation may sound a little odd until you put yourself in it and you realize these people are trying to figure out a way to pay off a mortgage and pay it off well and they try their best to choose good people to put in that house and they’re just kind people and it’s really just what it is and to see this happen to them is horrifying.”