Ottawa

Residents of fire-damaged highrise may be displaced for days

Lower floor residents of a Donald Street apartment building will have to wait longer to return home, though the entire building has been evacuated.

More than 200 tenants can't move back in until heat, power restored

Emergency crews and Red Cross volunteers helped people evacuate from 251 Donald St. after an early morning fire Dec. 12, 2018. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

Tenants of 251 Donald St. who live on the lower floors may have to wait several days to return home after Wednesday's fire, with a total of more than 230 people displaced.

Coun. Mathieu Fleury, chair of Ottawa Community Housing (OCH), received an update with local councillor Tobi Nussbaum after Wednesday's council meeting.

Fleury said the investigators believe the fire started in the community housing building's electrical system in a second-floor common area.

There are 30 units on the second, third and fourth floor that were most severely damaged by flames, smoke and water.

"It might be several days for them to be able to re-enter their floor and their units," Fleury said.

Fleury said the city is looking for "medium-term" accommodations for that group.

R​esidents of the fifth floor and above will be able to return about 48 hours after OCH has taken over the scene from investigators and the electrical system is restored.

The Red Cross, Salvation Army, Options Bytown and Rideau-Rockliffe Community Resource Centre have been working to find temporary accommodations for people.

Firefighters have helped people recover pets, medication and mobility devices from the site, according to Red Cross volunteer David Fraser.

Fraser said volunteers are trained to help people cope, merely two weeks before the holidays.

"The season's not great. It's never a great time to be displaced from your home. Our job is to make sure that we keep them as comfortable as we possibly can," Fraser said.

OCH is directing people interested in making donations to the Red Cross.