Richard Henry and Gisele Duval sat on a bench with tears in their eyes, watching their east end home go up in flames Wednesday afternoon in a $1-million blaze.
“We were just starting our journey,” said an emotional Henry, 49, adding they’ve only lived at 17 Desloges Priv., just off Montreal Rd., a few blocks east of the Aviation Pkwy. for about seven or eight months.
They don’t have insurance.
Duval feared Henry, her boyfriend, was still inside and frantically appealed to first responders to find him.
Turns out he went to meet his son and wasn’t at home.
The couple embraced and eventually made their way over to a bench in front of a neighbouring building.
Their residence is one of six in a multi-unit townhouse complex that were damaged. In all nine residents of these units were displaced. More than 14 others will be out of their units at least overnight.
No one was injured but fire crews rescued a dog and cat.
The blaze was first reported at noon by a passerby who ran into Ottawa Fire Station No. 51 just across the parking lot, but reported the wrong street, according to fire spokesman Marc Messier.
Trucks initially went to Hochelaga St., just behind Desloges.
Crews had to backtrack, delaying their response by a few minutes.
When they arrived, smoke and flames were billowing from one of the units and quickly spreading from the building’s second floor.
“They had heavy fire involvement on that floor, as well as the top floor, which is the third level,” said Messier.
Eventually, firefighters pulled out due to the intensity of the fire.
They attacked it from outside until they were able to knock it down.
“Crews have gone back in, and since, been evacuated again,” said Messier at the scene.
“So basically, it’s been a very difficult fire to fight because of the compartmentation and the way that the building is laid out.”
Dozens of residents stood and watched.
College Catholique Samuel-Genest student Chanelle Mainville, 17, was with friends Matt Morin and Michel Lebeau as they drove along Montreal Rd.
When they saw the flames, they stopped to get a better look.
“And then big fire, smoke, and everything was coming out of the house,” said Mainville.
“And then we just saw people, like, screaming and then girls crying ’cause of their house.”
Tears roll down Henry’s face.
Watching the fire reminds him of his divorce and “the loss in your heart, ” said Henry, adding this is the second fire Duval has had to endure.
He pats the right hand pocket of his jeans.
Inside, there’s a memory key with work saved from a book he’s writing about addictions.
“I’m a survivor,” said Henry.
-with files from Errol McGihon