Pimicikamak Cree Nation is mourning the loss of four children in a house fire in Thompson, Man., 650 km north of Winnipeg.
The children were at home with two adults and a teenage girl when the blaze broke out early Wednesday morning.
The adults and a 13-year-old girl survived the fire, according to Thompson RCMP.
Police said Rown Thomas, 4, Big Beara Keeper, 7, Leon Keeper Jr., 9, and Helen Keeper, 10, did not get out of the house in time.
“It’s a big loss for the community,” said Pimicikamak Chief David Monias. “It’s huge.”
The home was engulfed in flames when firefighters and emergency services arrived on the scene, the police said in a news release.
Firefighters retrieved the bodies once the fire was under control.
Both the RCMP and Fire Commissioners Office of Manitoba are investigating the blaze.
Shirley Robinson, who is a cousin to the children and a band councillor in Pimicikamak [Cross Lake First Nation], said the deaths have deeply affected the community about 120 km south of Thompson.
And the single mother will need support.
“We need to help her get back up; we need to be there for her,” she told CTV News. “She needs us more than ever – we need to make sure that we can build some kind of foundation for her and her children.”
This is not the only fire to claim the lives of community members this year.
A toddler and two teenagers died in a house fire in February.
In fact, Indigenous people are more likely to die in a fire than non-Indigenous people, according to a recent Statistics Canada report commissioned by the National Indigenous Fire Safety Council (NIFC).
Inuit are 17 times more likely to die in a fire, and First Nations people living on reserve are 10 times more likely to die in a fire, said the report.
For Métis, the average is two times more likely to die in a fire.
NIFC says installing a smoke detector is a way to reduce the risk.
There is no national fire code protection on reserves that mandates safety standards or enforcement. As it stands now, it’s up to the chief and council to mandate standards for enforcement.
Every other jurisdiction in Canada has established building and fire codes, including airports and military bases, the report said listing reasons why more fire deaths occur among Indigenous peoples.
It cited poverty, inadequate housing and the lack of smoke alarms. It also blamed a shortage of fire departments and adequate water pressure.
With files from Kathleen Martens and Danielle Paradis