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Mother and daughter killed in Lachine apartment fire, another child in critical condition

A 40-year-old woman and her eight-year-old daughter have died after a fire in an apartment block in Montreal's Lachine borough, Montreal police have confirmed.

Three of the woman's children were also injured in the blaze, with one of them in critical condition. 

The neighbourhood was in mourning Saturday, with children and adults placing plush toys on the doorsteps of the apartment building.

The fire broke out at about 11 p.m. Friday on the second floor of a 51-unit apartment building on Duff Court Street.

"Due to the rapid intervention of the firefighters, it was contained to that apartment only," said Matthew Griffith, speaking for the Montreal fire department. 

Griffith said the intensity of the flames when firefighters entered the unit made it impossible to tell whether the smoke alarm in the apartment was working. About 70 firefighters worked to evacuate the building and extinguish the fire.

Firefighters and paramedics tried to resuscitate the woman and her daughter but they were declared dead at the scene, Montreal police said. One other daughter, 4, is still in critical condition.

The Montreal fire department said the damage was limited to the unit where the fire started. (Verity Stevenson/CBC)

The woman's two 13-year-old sons were also taken to hospital, but their injuries are not life-threatening. The two boys survived by jumping off the second-floor balcony, Montreal fire spokesperson Louise Desrosiers said Saturday afternoon. 

"People will be able to go back to their apartments. We made sure that the alarm system was working and everybody had [a] smoke alarm, too," said Desrosiers. 

The police arson squad is investigating the fire because of the two deaths. They said it's too early to confirm what caused the fire, but they suspect it may have been caused by a cigarette. 

'I was hesitant coming down'

Charon Chukwu, who has four children of her own, also lives in the apartment block. When she heard the alarm go off, she said she hesitated to leave the building. Many of the tenants were still asleep and there was confusion when the alarm first sounded, she said.

"I thought maybe it was the usual alarm, maybe it's smoke from somebody's cooking," said Chukwu. "So I was hesitant coming down until I heard the screaming, and it was really serious."

Chukwu was a friend of the 40-year-old woman, and was horrified when she found out what had happened. She said the victim was friendly and always worked hard to support her children. 

"I know, as a mother, she must have tried her best to save her kids," Chukwu said. 

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