Orléans business owners face uncertain future after 'devastating' mall fire

Businesses are taking stock of damages and trying to determine when they'll be able to reopen after a fire tore through a strip mall in Ottawa's east end.

As many as 8 businesses damaged after fire broke out at upholstery company

The Office of the Fire Marshal says a fire that tore through an Orléans strip mall on March 31, 2018, started inside this upholstery business before spreading to neighbouring units. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

Businesses at an east Ottawa strip mall are taking stock of damages and trying to determine when they'll be able to reopen after a "devastating" weekend fire.

Firefighters were called to 2095 St. Joseph Blvd. in Orléans around 12:30 p.m. Saturday after a fire broke out at an upholstery business.

The fire quickly spread, sending thick black smoke through the other stores and restaurants.

"It's devastating, because our business is closed and this is our bread and butter," said Anjum Kurichh, who owns the Little Turkish Village restaurant with her husband Sunil.

"There's a lot of smoke inside. It smells really bad."

Sunil (left) and Anjum (right) Kurichh own Little Turkish Village Dining Lounge in Orléans. They say they're not sure when they'll be able to reopen after fire tore through the strip mall where they're located on March 31, 2018. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

She said they lost all of the restaurant's food, both because of the smoke damage and the fact power was cut off to the unit.

Sunil Kurichh was inside the restaurant when the fire began, preparing for the lunch rush.

He said he originally thought something in his restaurant was on fire before firefighters knocked on his door and told him to get out immediately.

"They grabbed me by the neck and they just pulled me out. I couldn't grab my jacket, nothing, at that time," he said, adding he was enveloped by black smoke pouring out of the other side of the plaza.

A nail salon and spa has been destroyed by a fire that started in an adjoining unit on March 31, 2018. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

Fire not suspicious, OFM says

The fire started inside George & Son's Upholstery, according to the Office of the Fire Marshal (OFM), which has been called in to investigate.

Two employees were working inside when flames broke out across the room, said William Hay, an OFM fire investigator.

"They made attempts to extinguish it, but failed. The fire was spreading rapidly," Hay said.

The two workers escaped and called 911, but the fire had already started to spread into a nearby nail salon and a consignment store, Hay said.

Those businesses received the bulk of the damage from the flames, he added, whereas other units mostly suffered smoke damage.

The fire isn't considered suspicious, Hay said, but the exact cause remains undetermined.

Flowermania suffered significant smoke damage after fire broke out at the St. Joseph Boulevard strip mall on Saturday. Employees were selling what they were able to salvage the day after the fire. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

Charlien Caparida was working at Flowermania, a flower shop, at the other end of the plaza when the fire broke out.

At first, she thought the wind was blowing up dust outside — before she realized it was smoke.

Caparida and another employee were selling as many flowers as they could salvage in the mall parking lot Sunday.

She said they were left with barely one quarter of what they had in the shop. The rest of the flowers were either wilted, damaged by smoke, or inaccessible because of the fire investigation, Caparida added.

"[It's] devastating," said Sheila Spruyt, who lives nearby and bought some flowers Sunday to the support the business.

"It makes me feel terrible. Our little Orléans."

The inside of George & Son's Upholstery, where the fire started, according to the Office of the Fire Marshal. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)