An elderly couple who died after their house caught fire early Thursday morning in Morden, Man., are being remembered as cornerstones in the community, the city’s mayor says.
“Every community has 20 or 30 people like that. And this couple was one of them,” said Brandon Burley.
“There was nobody, I think, who didn’t know them and who weren’t influenced in some way by their community service…. They’ll be hard to replace in the community. People like that aren’t made every day.”
Crews responded to a report of a fire at the couple’s Birchwood Drive house around 4:15 a.m., Morden Police Service Sgt. Chris Flook said. Once they put out the blaze, crews found a man and a woman, both in their 80s, dead.
He said police have not yet named the couple, pending the results of an investigation by the chief medical examiner’s office.
Flook said it’s likely the impact of the couple’s death will reverberate through the city.
“I didn’t grow up in Morden, but I think anyone who has grown up in Morden … when they’re such a small community, you kind of know who these people are. You see them driving around, and it’ll be one of those losses where people won’t see them at the coffee shop anymore or the local venues,” he said.
That sentiment rings true for Burley, who will miss grabbing a coffee or playing cards at the Royal Canadian Legion with his old friend, who he could always count on to hold him to account.
“He was one of those people that right after I was elected, you know, he made no bones about letting me know he didn’t vote for me. But if he could do it over again, he would have,” Burley said.
“Every time I would make a decision, I would always ask myself, ‘What would he say about this decision? What would he think?’ There was nobody else in the community that really held myself to task by their opinion except for him, because I had a lot of respect for him as an individual and community member.”
The deadly blaze in Morden — roughly 100 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg — came just a few hours after another fatal house fire in the community of Sanford, Man., about 70 kilometres northeast of Morden. A man and a woman, both 65, died in that fire, RCMP said. Both fires are still under investigation, though neither is considered suspicious, police said.
Burley said the fire in Morden marks the third loss of a home to fire in the region within the last two weeks.
“Whether we need more fire prevention or education or whatever it may be, we have to look at that and determine what we can do … to educate the public and make sure that people have a plan,” he said.
Christmas this year will be especially hard for the family of the couple, who were married and lived in the community for more than 60 years.
“They loved each other so much…. One of the greatest honours I had as mayor was to have made their acquaintance,” he said.
“It’s a bit of a solemn reminder about the value of family this time of year and, you know, taking for granted the folks that we think will always be there.”
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