A seven-year-old girl died and her mother and two younger brothers were taken to hospital with serious injuries after their mobile home caught fire early Friday.
A man was also taken to hospital to be treated after the fire ripped through a mobile home and spread to a neighbouring unit in Les’s Trailer Park, just west of Red Deer on Burnt Lake Trail.
Fire inspector Scott Tuton, with Red Deer County Fire Services, said when he arrived, one of the homes was fully engulfed in flames.
Nearly three dozen firefighters from Blackfalds, Red Deer County, City of Red Deer and Sylvan Lake battled the blaze, which also destroyed an adjacent unit, from about 1 a.m. until 5 a.m.
The body of the girl was found around 9 a.m. during a search of one of the burned-out trailers.
Neighbour Darrell Comis said a woman and her three children lived in the trailer, along with her boyfriend.
A close family friend considered an uncle lived in the trailer next to her and rushed into her unit to pull the two boys out, who are around three to five years old, he said.
Comis said by the time he saw the fire, flames were rising several metres into the air above one of the units two doors down from his.
“The flames were just shooting left and right out of there,” he said.
“Then, the next one started to catch fire.”
“Then, not even two minutes apart, there were four fairly big explosions, and then there was a couple of smaller explosions.”
Comis said he’s heard that the mother was badly burned and her two children also suffered injuries.
He said he often saw the woman walking in the neighbourhood with her three young children. They were often cheerfully playing with their cats.
“They had kittens and they would say what their names were,” he said.
For Comis, hearing that the seven-year-old did not make it hit especially hard.
“I know what it’s like. I lost my eight-year-old son myself,” he said, his voice breaking. Comis’s son died in a drowning accident in Red Deer River in 1996.
“My son was eight. Her girl was seven. I know exactly how she feels.”
Another neighbour said the mother was an animal lover who was dedicated to her children.
“Your heart wrenches,” said the woman, who preferred not to be named.
“I bought pink carnations and I bought a stuffy,” she said, saying she planned to place them at the scene when the firefighters had left.
The stuffy was her granddaughter’s idea and is for the little girl who died, she said.
“It’s just a stuffy for her to take to heaven,” she said.
It is difficult to fathom how quickly a normal night can turn to tragedy, said the woman.
“That’s the worst of it. It’s so out of your hands. She was a precious angel.”
Blackfalds RCMP continue to investigate this incident with the assistance of investigators from Red Deer County Fire Services.