Londoners rally to help 12 families displaced by fire in housing co-op

Londoners are rallying to help a dozen families displaced by a fire at the King Street Tolpuddle Housing Co-Operative Sunday night.

The Sunday night blaze destroyed 4 apartment units and made another 8 unsafe for now

The front porch was engulfed in flames when fire crews arrived. (Kate Dubinski/ CBC News)

Londoners are rallying to help a dozen families displaced by a fire at the King Street Tolpuddle Housing Co-Operative Sunday night. 

People have been dropping off essential items such as food and toiletries for 12 families who are unable to return to their apartment units within the Adelaide and King Street area highrise. 

Four of those families won't be able to get back in for up to eight months because of the fire damage. 

"Since [Tuesday] morning, donations are pouring in. It's great," said Jo-Dee Durrant-Phoenix, a member of the co-op who is helping organize fundraising efforts

The four destroyed units were occupied by single moms with young children and a woman who lived with her nephew and niece, Durrant-Phoenix said. 

That nephew, believed to be about 25-years-old, noticed the smoke in the hallway between his unit and the one next door was so bad it was impossible to get out via the door. 

So he climbed down from the balcony, then climbed into the unit next door and carried a six-year-old boy down from the second-storey balcony. The boy's mom also got out with the young man's help. 

"We're very thankful for him," Durrant-Phoenix said. 

"Three of those four units that are destroyed were occupied by single moms who are trying to get back on their feet," she added. 

Cause of fire not yet determined

Fire officials say they've completed their on-site investigation and are now running lab tests to determine the cause of the blaze. 

Many of the families have found places to stay with relatives or friends. A few don't have support and have been helped by the Red Cross, though the organization can only help for a few days. 

"It's hard for us to determine how much money we need," Durrant-Phoenix said. "We're not comfortable putting a dollar value on things because people who face barriers don't look at money like that. We need clothing, furniture, food, toothbrushes, things we take for granted. The more of that stuff we get, the less cash we'll need."

The co-op is a diverse place with 132 units, she added. 

"We really are a reflection of the greater community of London. We have new Canadians, we have super seniors, baby boomers, Gen Z, skilled professionals, people who are overcoming barriers with poverty, and we all live in Tolpuddle in harmony,"  she said.

"We always come together as a community. We've done that. Now we're reaching out to the greater London community to ask for help."