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Son mourns father's fiery death

A son struggling to deal with his father's death in a fatal fire has been forced to assume another burden: that some people in the community believe his dad's cigarette may have sparked the inferno.

Police said Saturday that 10 people are dead and another 22 residents were still missing after the fast-moving blaze consumed the Residence du Havre in the tiny Quebec community of L'Isle-Verte.

Jean-Andre Michaud's father, Paul-Etienne, 96, was among those who vanished in Thursday's fire and are believed to be entombed in mounds of rubble and thick slabs of ice.

But as Jean-Andre, 68, tries to mourn the loss of his dad, people in the community have begun to believe one of his father's cigarettes may have triggered the disaster.

He has faced questions about this possibility from police investigators and journalists. A media report has also led the town, including members of his extended family, to believe it all began with the cherry of his father's cigarette.

An emotional Jean-Andre Michaud said in an interview Saturday at his farmhouse that he's not buying the argument his father might have started the fire, even though he acknowledged his dad was, at times, a determined smoker.

"My father smoked a bit, but would he get up in the middle of the night to go for a smoke?" he said as a tear rolled down his cheek inside the house where his father was born, just outside town.

"No, it's impossible... It would be a bitter pill to swallow to start saying, 'Look, your father started the fire'...

"It's not my father, leave me in peace, damn it."

But he also described how his father, well-known in the family for his stubborn streak, would sometimes go to great lengths to get his fix.

He said his dad had been caught lighting up inside the seniors' residence a couple of times shortly after the building became smoke-free a few years back.

Jean-Andre Michaud said it would be another burden for the grieving family if, in fact, authorities determine that his father's cigarette started the fire.

"It's the way he went and they haven't even found him yet," he said, adding he hopes his dad's death is confirmed soon.

"I would have at least like to be told that he's gone."

The Canadian Press
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