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7 sent to hospital after Edmonton apartment fire ignites during police negotiation

Seven people were sent to hospital after a fire burned in a south Edmonton apartment building early Friday morning. (Dave Bajer/CBC - image credit)
Seven people were sent to hospital after a fire burned in a south Edmonton apartment building early Friday morning. (Dave Bajer/CBC - image credit)

Update: On Jan. 29,  the Edmonton Police Service said a 44-year-old man has been charged with arson — disregard for human life, mischief, obstructing a peace officer and breaching a court order.

Rupam Saha and Arny Majumder were asleep in bed early Friday morning when a firefighter had to rescue them from the balcony of their south Edmonton apartment.

Saha and Majumder, who were in their night clothes when they were rescued, had lived in the building for just over a year after moving to Edmonton from Bangladesh. The couple is now being taken care of by friends, but Majumder said they've lost everything.

"It was my first home after coming [to] Canada and it's very difficult for me," she said.

"I don't know what [we] should do now."

Seven people were taken to hospital Friday morning after a fire ignited in an apartment building in Edmonton's Queen Alexandra neighbourhood.

Arny Majumder, left, and Rupam Saha were asleep in bed early Friday morning when a firefighter rescued them from the balcony of their south Edmonton apartment unit.
Arny Majumder, left, and Rupam Saha were asleep in bed early Friday morning when a firefighter rescued them from the balcony of their south Edmonton apartment unit.

Arny Majumder, left, and Rupam Saha were asleep in bed early Friday morning when a firefighter rescued them. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Around 5 p.m. MT Thursday, local police officers were dispatched to the building, located at 107th Street and 79th Avenue, to help another agency carry out a court order against a man who barricaded himself inside one of the units, police said.

Negotiations with the man continued until shortly before 1 a.m. Friday, when a fire started inside his suite, police said.

Police had been stationed outside the building when Daniel Oulds fell asleep. Roughly 20 minutes later, his 79-year-old mother shook him awake.

"I had enough time to grab my daughter's diabetic stuff and scoop it into a bag," said Oulds, who was in the apartment with his mother, brother and two-year-old daughter.

"As soon as I opened my door, [there] was so much smoke I couldn't even see."

Daniel Oulds was inside a south Edmonton apartment building with his two-year-old diabetic daughter, his 79-year-old mother and brother when he was shaken awake by his mother.
Daniel Oulds was inside a south Edmonton apartment building with his two-year-old diabetic daughter, his 79-year-old mother and brother when he was shaken awake by his mother.

Daniel Oulds was inside a south Edmonton apartment building with his two-year-old diabetic daughter, his 79-year-old mother and brother when he was shaken awake by his mother. (Dave Bajer/CBC)

His daughter and mother are among the seven people who were sent to hospital. The girl is doing OK, but Ould's mother is receiving critical care, he said.

"We just got out of the hospital last week," said Oulds, a single dad.

"I've been at the hospital for seven days and I came home for one day of sleep — and this is what happens."

Oulds is "furious" with Edmonton police, he said, questioning why the stand-off lasted so long. He wonders if the fire could have been prevented.

Police arrested the man as firefighters were called to the scene.

Firefighters were called in at 12:46 a.m. Friday to a structure fire on 107 Street and 79 Avenue in south Edmonton.
Firefighters were called in at 12:46 a.m. Friday to a structure fire on 107 Street and 79 Avenue in south Edmonton.

Edmonton firefighters were called in shortly after 12:45 a.m. MT Friday to a structure fire on 107th Street and 79th Avenue, in the Queen Alexandra area. (Dave Bajer/CBC)

Crews arrived within five minutes of getting the call, said Neil Robertson, assistant deputy chief of operational performance for Edmonton Fire and Rescue Services.

Across the street, Cole Panchyshyn was hanging out with his friends when they noticed the building go up in flames.

"We were astounded by how quickly it was going up," he said.

"[Before] you knew it, half the building was on fire."

Robertson said the fire was brought under control by 4:20 a.m. Significant damage was visible from the outside, and many of the surrounding buildings were black with smoke damage.

Cole Panchyshyn was hanging out with his friends across the street when they noticed the building go up in flames. Once crews put out the fire, he helping evacuees and their pets, hosting them in his apartment and trying to find them essentials.
Cole Panchyshyn was hanging out with his friends across the street when they noticed the building go up in flames. Once crews put out the fire, he helping evacuees and their pets, hosting them in his apartment and trying to find them essentials.

Cole Panchyshyn was hanging out with his friends across the street when they noticed the building go up in flames. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

"It was a fast-moving fire," Robertson said, adding the entire building had to be evacuated.

Once fire crews put out the flames, Panchyshyn started helping evacuees and their pets, hosting them in his apartment and trying to find them essentials.

The Edmonton Police Service notified Alberta's director of law enforcement, police said, but the director determined the incident was outside the scope for the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) to review. ASIRT, the province's primary police oversight agency, investigates events where serious injury or death may been caused by police.

Police continue to investigate.