A family of five is now homeless after a fire destroyed their fifth-floor apartment in Ottawa's south end.

Firefighters said they received 911 calls at about 1:20 p.m. Saturday from residents of an eight-storey apartment building at 3301 Uplands Dr., near Paul Anka Drive.

When they arrived, firefighters reported flames and black smoke coming from the apartment unit. Early stages of the investigation showed the fire was accidental and began in the bedroom, officials said.

Officials said there was heavy damage to the unit and some smoke and water damage to the units above and below the fire. 

A family of five, two adults and three children, are now homeless. The Red Cross and Salvation Army are assisting.

Seven other families are also temporarily displaced but they will be able to return to their apartments by late Sunday, fire officials said.

Woman rescued from balcony

While fighting the blaze, firefighters discovered a woman was in the unit next to the fire on her balcony, so they used the basket and ladder to rescue her before she was seriously injured.

Chris Lamer, who lives one floor above, said he heard the alarm and thought it was a fire drill. But then he said he smelled smoke in his bedroom.

“A guy comes running down the hall yelling, ‘Real fire, big fire, get out now,’ so I proceeded down the stairway,” said Lamer, who closed all his doors and windows before leaving the building.

“I could see smoke coming from a fifth-floor apartment. At first it was black smoke coming out  and then as fire crews started to arrive there was a glass explosion, so the glass blew out and then the flames started jutting out of the actual window,” Lamer said.

The fire was out at about 2:00 p.m. before firefighters ventilated the building.

Paramedics said they treated four people at the scene for minor smoke inhalation. Nobody was taken to hospital..

The total damage is estimated at $225,000.