Roommates credited with saving lives in Charlottetown apartment fire

When an electrical fault sparked a fire in one of the outside walls of 6 Elena Court in Charlottetown as the clock turned past midnight a week ago, most of the residents were asleep.

"We really didn't know what was happening.… Everyone was sleeping," said building resident Yasmeen Thakur.

"A couple of boys saved every single person from the building."

Maavi Gill and Manpreet Singh were awake when the fire started, having just returned home from work.

Singh told Gill he smelled something burning. They looked around their apartment but couldn't find anything. Then they looked outside.

Resident of 6 Elena Court, Charlottetown
Yasmeen Thakur was asleep when her building caught fire. (Laura Chapin/CBC)

They saw the fire burning on the outside wall. Singh said it didn't look like much.

"I didn't think the fire could cover the whole building. It was a very small fire at that time," he said.

Fire spread quickly

Still, they acted immediately.

Singh called 911. Gill and a third roommate, Jaskaran Kang, went back inside and started banging on doors to wake people up. Kang found a fire alarm and pulled it.

"One guy, he could barely walk. He was disabled. So I helped him. His apartment, I think, was almost in the fire when I took him out," Gill said.

"I'm scared, but this is what my parents and our culture teaches us. Always help each other."

The fire at 6 Elena Court quickly enveloped the building. (Submitted)
The fire at 6 Elena Court quickly enveloped the building. (Submitted)

There were three floors in the 20-unit building, and each of the roommates took one. When they came back out, it was clear the fire was going to be serious. High winds were fanning the flames. Gill said he could see two apartments were burning.

By the time the fire department arrived, deputy chief Kent Mitchell described the building as fully involved in fire. Flames had reached the attic, making it difficult for firefighters to attack it.

"Within half an hour it was covering the whole building," Singh said.

The building was destroyed. The fire spread so quickly, few had time to escape with much more than the clothes they were wearing.

But there were no serious injuries. Around 40 residents all got out safely.