Quebec Firefighter Dies in House Fire

VAL-DES-MONTS, QUEBEC -- An 18-year-old volunteer, who joined the local fire department because he liked helping others, did just that for two colleagues Sunday. But, he lost his life in the process.

Andre Manseau, 18, was killed when a garage collapsed on him, said Val-des-Monts Fire Chief Benoit Gagnon.

When firefighters arrived, they found it difficult to access the burning house because of the two feet of snow. The chief said crews went through the attached garage to reach the fire in a rear bedroom.

They had been at the home for about two hours, and were looking for hotspots. A light haze was spotted coming from the garage. There was no outward sign that the garage was in danger of collapsing.

Although he had been assigned to water supply, Manseau went into the garage with a 10-year veteran and another firefighter. "He was a carpenter. He knew buildings. He looked around, and didn't like what he saw. And, he heard something. He yelled to the others they had to get out because it was about to collapse," the chief said.

The others made it out unscathed. Manseau, however, was buried under a pile of rubble.

"I looked and saw a backhoe coming down the road. I asked him to help, and within five minutes it was in there digging out debris. Unfortunately, it was too late. It took us 40-45 minutes to get to him."

The chief said his firefighters were "relieved from duty" for two or three hours Sunday while they met with grief counselors. Calls were handled by personnel from neighboring departments.

The tragic loss of the young firefighter has left the community in shock. "The passion he had in his life was firefighting. He was one we were depending on as part of our future. Andre was about to take the firefighting courses so he could be fully ready."

Gagnon said people are calling the 18-year-old a hero. "He knew structures because of his studies. It's because of his warning that the others got out." Funeral arrangements will be announced on Tuesday.