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Montreal fire fighter killed


December 10, 2007
By Fire Fighting in Canada

Capt. Marcel Marleau caught in flashover

6Fire fighters in Montreal and across North America were mourning one of their own, after a veteran Montreal fire captain died in a flashover at a small apartment building in the early hours of Saturday, Jan 21.

A public funeral at the Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal was held Jan. 26 for Capt. Marcel Marleau, who lost his life in the line of duty at the five-alarm blaze. Marleau was laid in state at the hall of honour of Montreal’s city hall for three days before the funeral with full fire department honours.

The Mayor of Montreal, Gerald Tremblay, said in a press release that he was deeply saddened by the death. “Capt. Marleau was highly regarded by all his colleagues. His courage and sense of duty have often been acknowledged throughout his career. He leaves to mourn his wife, Chantelle Ball, and his two children, Philippe and Patrick Marleau, friends and colleagues who are deeply shaken by this loss,” said Tremblay.

Capt. Marleau, a decorated 28-year veteran of the department and father of two, led a team to investigate complaints from residents that they smelled smoke in the building on Langelier Blvd. in the city’s north end. Just after 3:30 a.m. they found a sofa in a first-floor apartment that appeared to be burning and started to ventilate the room and evacuate residents.

However, Montreal Fire Director Serge Tremblay said Marleau and his team suddenly found themselves surrounded by flames from a deadly flashover. “There was a thermal phenomenon that isolated Capt. Marleau from the group,’’ Tremblay told a news conference.

A flashover happens when something burning or smouldering causes hot gas to build up at ceiling level. When the gas reaches a certain temperature, the entire room explodes in flames.

Tremblay said fellow fire fighters were unable to reach Marleau despite several rescue attempts.

Another fire fighter suffered second-degree burns to the face during the fire, which spread quickly through the three-storey building. He was treated at hospital and released.

Mayor Gerald Tremblay praised Marleau’s team for helping the more than 100 other fire fighters who answered the five-alarm fire continue to evacuate dozens of residents.

“Marcel’s team continued to act with courage and professionalism and succeeded in evacuating some 30 residents of the building,’’ he told reporters.

The Quebec government also offered its condolences. “The premier and all the members of the government join me in offering their sincere condolences to Mr. Marcel Marleau’s family and his colleagues … especially those of Station 14, Group 1,’’ the provincial public security minister, Jacques Dupuis, said in a news release.

Marleau is the fourth Montreal fire fighter to die in the line of duty since 1990. Flags were lowered to half-mast in Montreal and at fire departments across Canada.

Tremblay said earlier at the scene that his colleagues were stunned by the loss of the captain, who had been decorated several times for bravery. “The service is completely devastated. We’ve already set up psychological counselling at one place and three units are there right now,’’ he said.

Members of Marleau’s unit have also all been visited by psychologists.

It had been reported that Marleau had been due to retire and was not even supposed to be working that night. The news report said he had switched shifts with a co-worker.

The cause of the fire is being investigated by police, but is so far believed to have been an accident.

Donations may be made to the Federation quebecoise de l’autisme, Lanaudiere region, 200 de Salaberry St., Joliette, QC  J6E 4G1 or to the Fondation des grands brules de l’Hotel-Dieu de Montreal, 3480 Saint-Urbain St., Montreal QC  H2W 1T8.W

— With files from Canadian Press and the City of Montreal

Rest in peace, brother