Eight Montreal police officers are credited with saving the life of an 18-month old child trapped inside of a burning building, when an impromptu intervention led them to an apartment complex in Hochelaga early Thursday morning.

Police happened to be on another call close by, when concerned citizens alerted the officers that a fire had broken out in a building on Dézéry St. near de Rouen.

“We were finishing up another operation when residents of the building came running towards officers,” said one officer who was on the scene, Hugues Thibault. “Suddenly, people came out of an address nearby… they were yelling ‘There’s a fire in the back! There’s a fire in the back!’”

Thibault and the other officers immediately responded.

“The officers and I had the reflex to go get the extinguishers in the vehicles,” he said.

Upon entering the building, police were confronted by thick, obstructing smoke.

“The police officers immediately rushed in. There was a lot of smoke – they had to crawl on the floor,” said SPVM spokesperson Manuel Couture.

Police had to belly-crawl to reach the apartment where the fire originated.

“It was hard to see what was going on,” said Thibault, adding that officers used about 15 extinguishers to slow the flames.

Inside of the unit, they found an 18-month-old girl in respiratory distress.

“We were down on our knees trying to see if there was anyone. We got the information there was a child inside. Suddenly, an officer managed to find the child in a room. He took the child with him and immediately left and gave her to the ambulance technicians who treated her immediately,” said Thibault.

Officers managed to help other residents out of the building, too.

There was a lot of smoke, so they had to break some doors to enter all the other apartments and take the citizens out,” said Couture.

Officers strongly believe that the child would not have survived if they had not immediately responded to the call for help.

“We were on the scene. It was by chance we were there, otherwise the child would likely have died in this fire,” said Thibault.

Police say the fire was started when the stove was left on.

A 49-year-old woman who was babysitting the child was arrested and detained by police. She was inside a neighbouring apartment at the time of the fire, leaving the child alone.

She is facing charges of criminal negligence causing bodily harm. Neighbours claim the woman has a history of drug consumption.

The child's parents were alerted to the incident.

All eight officers on the ground were treated for smoke inhalation, four of whom were transported to hospital for treatment. One officer suffered minor burns.

Less than 30 other occupants were in the building at the time of the fire, and all were successfully removed by police. No other serious injuries were reported.

The child is expected to survive her injuries.

“She seems to be in good health now,” said Thibault.

Neighbour Francois Laroche said he was impressed with the quick reaction by police.

“I’m proud of the police and the firefighters. They did good work,” he said.