Tenant describes the “chaos” of a major fire at the Overbrook apartment
Renters who once called an apartment building in the Overbrook neighborhood home are now trying to salvage what they can after a major fire Tuesday night.
Firefighters responded to a fire on Presland Road near the Vanier Parkway early Tuesday night and found smoke billowing from upper floors.
Ottawa Police have since charged a 31-year-old Ottawa woman with arson and attempted murder in connection with the blaze.
George Mullins, who has lived in the building for about 20 years, recalled the “mess” of leaving home on Wednesday – as he stood outside the blacked-out apartment he called home less than 24 hours ago.
“I’m still emotional right now,” Mullins said.
He said he was watching TV in his unit when the fire alarm went off. Then he ran onto the balcony, looked up to the fourth floor and saw black smoke billowing out of a neighbor’s window.
“I was panicking and my TV was still on and I put my shoes on and knocked on people’s doors.[It’s] real this time. Out, out!’” he said.
Mullins was able to go outside and saw firefighters climb to the top floor to rescue four people, including a child, who were trapped on their balcony. He said they all cried out for help.
Neighbors began to gather outside and as Mullins looked up at the building’s roof he said all he could see was flames and smoke until firefighters successfully extinguished the blaze around 9pm
The crews are now helping the tenants reclaim whatever they can.
With tears in his eyes, Mullins said he came back to get what was most important to him: personal documents, his reading glasses and “some pictures that meant a lot to him”. Most are from family over the years.
According to the fire department, around 60 people were displaced. City officials said in an email they helped 40 people from 14 households find emergency shelter, clothing, food and other services.
Police said the investigation into the incident is ongoing, but no further details are available.
The building is owned by Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation (CCOC), a non-profit organization that provides housing for middle- and low-income people.
Company officials said most tenants had reached out to family and friends for support at short notice, but it’s questionable whether the city will eventually rebuild the apartment.
“There’s an affordable housing component,” said Marjolaine Provost of the Overbrook Community Association.
“It’s an issue that we really feel in Overbrook because there’s a high proportion of families, typically immigrant families. They need affordable housing and they also need lots of space.”
Provost said the association is speaking to city councilors and officials to discuss next steps.