Unsung heroes rescued 12 people from Quebec seniors' home fire

A firefighter sprays hot water as he works on the site of the Residence du Havre in L'Isle Verte,...

A firefighter sprays hot water as he works on the site of the Residence du Havre in L'Isle Verte, Quebec, January 28, 2014. (REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:49 PM ET

L'ISLE-VERTE, Que. — Dozens of police and firefighters squat over piles of debris, digging by hand for charred human remains following a deadly Quebec nursing-home fire.

Media were granted access Tuesday to the rubble of the Residence du Havre in L'Isle-Verte, Que.

Seventeen seniors died last Thursday and 15 are still missing in the fire 230 km northeast of Quebec City. Only four bodies have been positively identified, the coroner’s office said on Tuesday.

About 50 workers continued to comb through soil and debris Tuesday with rakes and shovels in bitter cold, strong winds and snow.

"We're advancing inch by inch ... to try and find bodies," said Cmdr. Andre Duchesne, whose provincial police unit specializes in mass body recovery.

"It's done with respect," Duchesne adds. "It's done carefully. And we'll take the time to do it properly to make sure the remains go back to the families." Once a body is found, lab workers examine it before it's sent for identification in Montreal, 450 km away.

Police said they had searched nearly two thirds of the rubble as of Tuesday afternoon.

Stories of heroics are now filtering out of this macabre scene as well.

The first police officers on the scene saved a dozen seniors from the inferno.

A source said one policeman ran into the residence three times without a mask, holding his breath and smashing doors to drag people to safety.

Another officer persuaded a person stuck on a third-floor balcony to jump, a decision that saved the elderly man's life.

Police said the officers are still in shock.


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