Highrise residents survey damage after ‘devastating’ fire

Highrise residents survey damage after ‘devastating’ fire
Highrise residents survey damage after ‘devastating’ fire

A day after fire forced them to flee their highrise buildings in Ottawa’s Overbrook neighborhood, residents who have been allowed to return said they struggled without power for part of the day.

The fire at 1244 Donald St. broke out early Thursday morning, sending eight people to hospital and displacing hundreds more.

On Friday morning, the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) said three people — two children and a woman — remain in critical condition. Five others were treated in hospital.

The OPS arson unit took over the investigation after the fire was deemed suspicious.

Apartments on the building’s third floor where the fire started suffered the worst damage from flames, smoke and water. Beacon Hill-Cyrville Coun. Tim Tierney said 56 residents remain displaced from 16 units.

‘We are really struggling’

Tierney said more than 250 residents sought assistance Thursday at the Overbrook Community Center, which served as a reunification point.

“What happened yesterday is so devastating and disconcerting,” said Kairshma Tofail who lives on the sixth floor.

Tofail said her unit wasn’t damaged, but her family was trying to cope without power.

“We cannot cook,” she said. “We are really struggling.”

Late Friday morning, Tierney said electrical contractors were still working to restore power. By mid afternoon, Tierney confirmed power has been restored.

Melissa Maheu’s ground floor apartment suffered limited damage. She’s more concerned about a family of six she knows who hasn’t been able to return. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC)

Melissa Maheu’s ground floor apartment suffered some water damage to the bathroom, but Maheu counts herself lucky she was able to return home.

That’s not the case for friends of hers who lived on the third floor. The family of six had to spend the night in a hotel room.

“It’s a lot for them, seeing them struggle,” Maheu said. “It’s hard.”

Return depends on investigation: manager

In an email to CBC, a representative of the company that manages the highrise said it’s been working closely with the Red Cross and other agencies to find emergency housing for displaced residents, among other services.

“Our hearts and thoughts are with everyone affected by yesterday’s tragic fire,” wrote Q Residential’s Lorne Stephenson.

Stephenson said elevators will be out of service for the weekend to allow electrical components to “fully dry out.”

Asked when residents on the third floor will be able to return, Stephenson said due to police “conducting an active criminal investigation, efforts to fully assess the affected units and make repairs will not be able to begin” until it’s done.

The highrise is owned by Enterprise Residential Real Estate Investment Trust, Stephenson said.

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