Many people will be left without a home after an early morning fire at an apartment building in Sturgeon Falls on July 19th. The 9-unit building at 192 Church Street kept fire fighters busy from nearly 6 a.m. and throughout the afternoon. Greater Sudbury Hydro issued a statement at roughly 7 a.m. that they would cut power off to 45 clients within the area while the fire crew combatted the blaze.
Incoming Fire Chief Frank Loeffen says the initial call for the fire was received at 5:45 a.m., and that firefighters did not clear the scene until 8 p.m. It took the response of 25 members of the West Nipissing Fire Department from 3 fire stations to maintain fire suppression. The crews contained the fire to the roof and attic of the building, and they successfully avoided any damage to surrounding buildings. While the causes of the fire are still under investigation, it is not deemed suspicious at this time, and no Fire Marshall investigation is necessary. The damage is estimated at approximately $700,000.
Micheline Dubé, property manager for the building owned by Norman Tao, confirmed that at least 13 people lived in the building. Most of the residents are 40 to 60 years of age, but the building was also home to a young mother with a 2-year-old as well as her mother, and an elderly person in their late 80s.
Fortunately, no one was injured in the fire, and all safeguards were in place to protect the occupants. Dubé asserts that smoke detectors were checked just this past winter. “One tenant smelled smoke and heard a fire alarm, and called the fire department.”
However, nine families will still be displaced by the fire, with little means to find a reasonable place to live with demand outpacing supply in the current housing market. “A lot of these people, they’re on ODSP,” explains Dubé.
Though there are agencies and social supports in place to help people with low income in a crisis, these systems are seemingly stretched very thin. This blaze is exposing many gaps in those supports, exacerbated by the current housing crisis.
Daniel Fortier, Emergency Management Coordinator with the Canadian Red Cross, describes that in situations like this, they handle the initial 72 hours of a crisis, and focus on immediate needs. They get names of individuals, they may also put them up in a hotel for a 3-day period, provide food and clothing vouchers, and other support. Subsequently, the Red Cross handles referrals to agencies to find permanent housing solutions. Fortier says of this particular fire, “Right now we don’t have many people registered, only 3 units. It doesn’t look [like] there are that many people looking for support at this time.” However, this was just a few hours after the start of the fire, and he expects other tenants may be reaching out within the 72-hour window.