Manitoba Housing resident looks back 1 year after deadly apartment fire

Nearly a year after a deadly fire that killed two people and sent six to hospital, Joanne Fontaine looks back and shares the many ways its affected her. Joanne Roberts has the story.

On Christmas a year ago, a deadly fire spread through Manitoba Housing’s Warwick Apartments in the early morning. The fire killed two people, sent six to hospital, and left a total of 42 tenants without homes.

“I could see from my window that there was firefighters and everything and I could feel the heat coming from upstairs. It was so hot … I just pushed myself to go and put my jacket on and just go to the door. I opened the door, there’s firefighters, everything. Told me to get out of the building,” explained Joanne Fontaine, a resident of the Warwick Apartments.

Fontaine says the fire heavily damaged her suite, which was two floors underneath the suite that caught fire. She was moved to a different apartment following the fire. Fontaine says she looks back, and she’s grateful she was able to hear the alarm that forced her out of her bed.

“It was unreal to see a fire. I barely made it out. If I was on my sleeping pills that night I wouldn’t have made it out.”

Joanne Fontaine stands in front of the Warwick Apartments nearly a year after a deadly fire that claimed the lives of two people. (Photo Credit: Joanne Roberts, CityNews)

Manitoba Housing says there are still three units that remain under construction and are being renovated. Nearly a year later, Fontaine says she’s still working on building her life back together. She lost almost everything in the fire, escaping with only the clothes on her back, but miraculously, she was able to recover one item from her former apartment.

“I was only able to save my poster that my brother signed and I just kept that because he passed away just right after the fire,” she explained.

Fontaine says she treasures the poster, as it’s the only memory she has of her friend who she calls her “street brother”.

“It’s just scary to know that I’m alone now, like by myself.”

Joanne Fontaine holds a poster she saved from her apartment – the only thing she was able to save. (Photo Credit: Joanne Roberts, CityNews)

Fontaine says the impacts since Christmas day are lasting, and are not only affecting her possessions.

“I don’t know if my body will, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to be the same again. At any noise, even if I drop (my cellphone) on the floor, I just jump,” said Fontaine.

“I feel depressed all the time. I feel angry.”

Joanne Fontaine says the poster means the world to her, as it was signed by someone she calls her street brother. (Photo Credit: Joanne Roberts, CityNews)

Manitoba Housing says ongoing supports have been offered to tenants, but Fontaine says she hasn’t seen any help in terms of counselling or basic needs like clothing.

“We didn’t ask for this to happen. We just want to be able to get through this,” said Fontaine.

Fontaine says she’s going to move on from this experience and eventually become an advocate for those like her, who have been struggling.

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