Neighbours stage dramatic rescue of three teens in Zhiibaahaasing

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Alert neighbour spotted house fire, knew three siblings were still inside

ZHIIBAAHAASING FIRST NATION—Two members of the Zhiibaahaasing First Nation are being praised for their life-saving actions when three teenagers, who were asleep at the time, were rescued from a house that was destroyed in a July 1 fire.

“We are going to do something to recognize them,” stated Kevin Mossip, a Band Councillor with Zhiibaahaasing First Nation. “If not for them going into the house, the three youths inside probably wouldn’t have made it.”

Councillor Mossip explained, “two of our community members, Ryan Debassige and Terry Cyr, went into the home during the fire and made sure the three older teenagers got out safely. I understand (the teenagers) were all napping at the time.”

Councillor Mossip explained the fire engulfed the house belonging to Theresa and Mark Wabegijik at around 4:00 pm on the afternoon of July 1, Canada Day. There are six people who live in the house, and at the time of the fire, there were three teenagers in the home.

Councillor Mossip said that Crystal Sagon, a neighbour of the Wabegijik house, was the first to discover the fire.

Ms. Sagon told The Expositor, “I live in the house behind them. And Terry (Cyr) is my neighbour. When I got home around 4 pm, I could see a fire and was wondering what it was from. Terry was at his house, and when I realized their (Wabegijik) house was on fire, I told him, we need to get the kids out of the house. Ryan and Terry both went into the house to find the kids,” she said, pointing out one half of the house was already full of flames and smoke before they got there. They both went into the house without any hesitation or worrying about their own well-being, but about getting those kids out of the house.”

The Sheshegwaning Fire Department responded to the fire quickly, said Councillor Mossip who said the fire crews were on hand from about 4:00 pm to about 1:00 am the next morning  to make sure the fire was completely extinguished. “By the time the fire department arrived, the house was basically destroyed, and all they could do was try to retain what was left of the building and make sure the blaze didn’t spread.” He pointed out the Wildcat Forest Fire Service was on the scene the whole time.

The entire family involved in the blaze is now living in a trailer provided by Zhiibaahaasing First Nation.

Chris Bigras (mother of Theresa Wabegijik) told The Expositor, “I don’t know exactly what time the fire took place, it was on Friday afternoon (July 1).” She said her daughter and her husband, and their four kids live in the house. “Two of my grandsons and our granddaughter were in the house (at the time of the fire) while my daughter was out shopping.”

“There were the three teens, (all her grandchildren) in the house,” said Ms. Bigras. “They were sleeping (at the time of the fire) and didn’t know what was happening. A neighbour saw the flames and thought it was a grass fire and then alerted Terry about it.”

Ms. Bigras told The Expositor she isn’t sure how the fire  started but that it could have been an electrical fire as it started in a wall of the house. “Luckily everyone got out, except for one of their pet cats.”

“Terry and Ryan went into the house, if not for them….,” said Ms. Bigras. She explained the home, “is a Zhiibaahaasing band housing unit. No, I don’t thing Theresa and Mark had contents insurance. They lost everything.”

“Our First Nation is helping the family to replace their belongings but donations would definitely be appreciated,” said Councillor Mossip.

Councillor Mossip explained the house lost in the blaze, on 16 Philip Road in Zhiibaahaasing, was one of the original housing units constructed in the community.