Community rallies in aftermath of fire

There are mountains of rubble on Beechwood Ave. Saturday afternoon.

Some passersby pause mid-step and stare.

A few drivers slow down to gawk.

Many don’t even acknowledge it — it’s part of the neighbourhood now.

“It’s sad, but it could’ve been worse. It could’ve been the whole block,” said Christian Hurysz, who lives nearby.

A massive fire on March 16 caused more than $1 million in damage to businesses and apartment units along the New Edinburgh strip, just east of the Vanier Parkway.

It began in the basement of a Home Hardware building and quickly spread, displacing dozens of families and businesses.

While some small business owners are starting from scratch, the dough is already rising again at Bread & Roses Bakery.

“We’ve had an amazing response from the neighbourhood,” said a grateful Chris Green, the bakery’s owner.

He’s been re-open for a week but being so close to the rubble is “horrible. Over the years, I’ve developed relationships with the owners there, and as well as staff,” said Green, adding it might be more than a year before the ruined stores can reopen.

Bright neon signs in the windows at the bakery and at Hamie’s Diner next door read “WE’RE OPEN” and “THANK U FOR YOUR SUPPORT.”

Describing the tight-knit community as a village, Green said businesses from across Ottawa are lending a hand.

A few doors west, an all-day fundraiser was held at the New Edinburgh Pub to help victims of the Beechwood fire.

Owners Paul and Tracy Williams said $3,000 had already been raised by 4 p.m.

Donations are being handled by the Crichton Cultural Community Centre.

“It’s kind of a big, huge, collaborative effort which is great because that’s how I think a community should be,” said volunteer Catherine McConkey.

Jill Hardy agrees.

She’s lived in New Edinburgh for 63 years.

“I can remember going into that hardware store with my grandfather, my father, my children,” she said.

She said it was the kind of store where you had your own tab.

“I honestly hope that when they do rebuild, it’s going to be the small individual storefronts because we support small business,” said Hardy.

She’s the first person you see inside the pub.

Holding an orange sign reading “BEECHWOOD FIRE DONATIONS,” people walk in and out dropping cash into a pair of black and yellow firefighter’s boots.

The initials “D.S.” are written on them in marker.

The boots are on loan from the Beechwood fire station — they were first on the scene on March 16.

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