It’s been one year since the smell of smoke and shouts for help alerted neighbors to the plight of the Shaibi family, whose flat above Maurice’s Corner store on 24th and Treat streets had burst into flame in the early hours of March 11, 2015. Two of the family of five were killed by the blaze. The family has since returned to the flat, and are getting back on their feet.
According to a fire investigation report, the fire was most likely caused by an electrical arc from a plug that powered a media center in the dwelling’s living room. In the fire investigation report, fire investigators noted the absence of smoke detectors on the second floor. The landlord, however, said there were smoke detectors.
Firefighters responded to the fire at 4:33 a.m. Neighbors had already been trying to assist the family, who were trapped on the top floor. After forcing the front gate and trying to head up the stairs, they were driven back by heavy smoke and flames.
One by one, the family members were recovered, rescued via ladder from the second story or carried out by firefighters. Mohamed Shaibi, father of three, and his 13-year-old daughter Amal Shaibi, ultimately died from their injuries.
One year later, Shaibi’s wife and two of their children are still grieving but have moved back into the renovated flat above the store, according to Shaibi’s brother Muthana.
“It’s sad, you know, it’s hard for them to believe that they didn’t have a dad, that their dad isn’t there anymore,” Muthana Shaibi said. “Financially they’re doing okay, the store is running again.”
Their swift return is rare. Though tenants of apartment buildings have a right to return after a fire, repairs often simply take too long, and tenants move on over the years. In this case, Muthana Shaibi estimated it took only about six months before repairs were made.
Maurice Pinto, the owner of 3044 24th Street, said the building still needs two new electrical meters, one for the unit downstairs and one for the unit upstairs. In the meantime, he said, he made an agreement with the city to allow tenants to move back upstairs despite some repairs still being outstanding.
“I made an agreement with city to allow us to move the tenant upstairs…so that they wouldn’t jump from home to home,” Pinto said. “My main concern was that they could reopen their business and make a living. And that they are going to be fine.”