Overnight fire hits downtown apartments

SEE VIDEO http://www.ottawasun.com/2012/06/08/overnight-fire-hits-downtown-apartments

Ben Light wasn’t sure if he’d make it to his convocation ceremony at Carleton University Friday morning, following an overnight fire in his building at the corner of MacLaren St. and Bank St.

“This is not what I wanted to wear,” said Light, 26, referring to his casual attire.

He studied philosophy for three years but didn’t want to go to his graduation.

“It’s my parents who wanted me to go,” he said, adding they live in the U.S. and flew in from overseas just for the ceremony.

Light and girlfriend Karen Ziegler, 24, live on the first floor of 384 MacLaren, also known as The Shorncliffe.

The fire alarm went off around 2 a.m. and police went knocking on doors to wake up residents.

“The alarm goes off fairly frequently, but it’s never been a real fire before,” said Light.

“We didn’t really grab anything important, really.”

The 21-unit building with about 40 residents was evacuated.

“It’s kind of a sketchy building, so we didn’t really think anything of it when it first went off,” said Ziegler.

Once outside, they looked up.

“That apartment (had) huge, huge, huge flames,” Ziegler said, pointing to a corner unit on the top floor of the four-storey building.

Firefighters rescued two people from the unit, said fire spokesman Marc Messier.

Two cats died.

“To come out and actually see the building in flames, it was quite a shock,” said Light.

In less than an hour, firefighters had the blaze under control.

Two people, a 64-year-old man and 42-year-old woman, were taken to hospital for smoke inhalation, and three others in their 20s were treated at the scene.

By 7 a.m., debris, including an air conditioner, was scattered on the sidewalk in front of the building, and the entrance was still taped off.

The fourth storey corner window was blown out and two out of three windows on the west side of the building were also damaged.

The cause remains under investigation.

At least two units are affected.

“We’re still trying to do a damage assessment,” said Messier.

An early figure for damage to the building and contents is $500,000.

The Red Cross and Salvation Army are assisting victims.

Although they were put up in a hotel overnight, Light and Ziegler decided to wait outside the building until they could go in to grab clothes.

kelly.roche@sunmedia.ca

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