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'My whole life is in there': Montrealers devastated after heritage building fire


The major fire that broke out in a heritage building in downtown Montreal Thursday afternoon was almost brought under control, fire officials said late Friday night.

Sylvain Jalbert, the section chief of Montreal's fire department, told The Canadian Press that there were no flames or smoke visible since approximately 7 p.m. at the Monastère du Bon-Pasteur building.

Around 30 remaining firefighters were put on "debris watch" to make sure the fire doesn't reignite.

At the height of the fire, there were about 150 firefighters tackling the five-alarm blaze at the building, which was built in 1846 at the corner of Sherbrooke and de Bullion Streets. The flames started around 4:40 p.m. Thursday.

The fire at the building, which housed residential units, a daycare, community organizations, and a concert hall, has devastated the community.

"My whole life is in there. I have pictures of my parents from the 1920s and 30s and family pictures from the last 50 years," said Diane Berube through tears.

The site also serves as an office for Heritage Montreal, located directly underneath the concert hall, where the damage is believed to be severe.

Precious historical and cultural items are feared lost, including a 350-year-old harpsichord and $300,000 piano inside the chapel concert hall. Flames destroyed the bell tower directly above.

"We are devastated really," said Anthony Paya of Heritage Montreal, an organization that had offices and archives inside the building.

Research and records about historic sites all over the city have likely been destroyed.

"It's a great loss in the history of Montreal because it was in the core of women communities back then and in the social history of Montreal. It was a monastery and it was also … made of grey stones of Montreal," Paya said.

In all, 39 people were forced to leave, 27 of whom are now in the care of the Red Cross.


Montreal's fire chief says it's unclear why a man in his 80s was overlooked during the evacuation of the burning Thursday night.

While officials initially reported that all occupants had been removed, the man was discovered in an apartment hours later and transported to hospital to be treated for hypothermia.

Speaking near the site of the blaze Friday afternoon, Service de sécurité incendie de Montréal (SIM) chief Richard Liebmann said there will be an investigation into the matter.

"We're still trying to determine how that person got there," he told reporters.

"There's a lot of contradictory information. What I can tell you for sure is that primary and secondary searches were done in the entire building. The person responsible for the part of the building where the senior [was] located confirmed to us that nobody was missing."

The man's injuries are not serious, he said.

Liebmann said he's "extremely confident" no one else is in the building, noting that no one has been reported missing.

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante was also on site Friday to address the public, warning residents to be mindful of the poor air quality in the city due to the fire.

With files from CTV News Montreal's Matt Gilmour and Luca Caruso-Moro. Top Stories

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