False alarms keep highrise tenants on edge

Tenants of a Donald Street highrise that caught fire in December say they've been traumatized by a rash of false alarms ever since, and want them to stop.

Fire officials confirm spate of 'malicious pulls' at Donald Street building that caught fire in December

A three-alarm fire broke out at 251 Donald St. around 5:30 a.m. on Dec. 12, forcing tenants to evacuate the building. (Scott Stilborn/Ottawa Fire Services)

Tenants of a Donald Street highrise that caught fire in December say they've been traumatized by a rash of false alarms ever since, and want them to stop.

Ottawa Fire Services confirms it has responded to a number of "malicious pulls" at 251 Donald St., a 21-storey Ottawa Community Housing building.

Every time the alarm goes off it just freaks me out.- Marie LeBel, tenant

Often, the false alarms ring out in the middle of the night.

"I'm really scared because every time the alarm goes off it just freaks me out." said Marie LeBel during a tenants meeting Wednesday.

LeBel was one of hundreds of tenants forced out of their homes on Dec.12 after fire broke out in the building. Some were forced onto their balconies to await rescue in the freezing cold.

"People feel that they are not safe," said Francis Yel, who described being jolted awake recently by a late-night alarm.

"Then I come down here, the firefighters are here and they say it's nothing, you can go back."

'You never know'

Diane Routhier suffered a heart attack last spring and said it's difficult to leave her apartment at two or three in the morning.

"You never know if there's a fire or not," Routhier said. "It's scary."

Fire officials visited the building Wednesday to review safety procedures with residents. Assistant district chief Gwen Lewis told the tenants they should always assume the alarms are real and follow emergency procedures.

She reassured residents that firefighters would respond to each and every alarm.

"If the fire alarm is pulled, we get notified and we respond." Lewis said.

At the same time, authorities would like to find out who's responsible for the false alarms.

"If you see something, say something," Lewis told tenants.​

Ottawa Public Housing also encouraged tenants to report suspicious activity, but said it couldn't reveal what it's doing to catch the culprits without jeopardizing its investigation.