15 people out of homes after apartment complex fire in Amherst

·2 min read
The Amherst fire department says the fire started in a second-floor apartment in the middle of the building and spread to the roof.  (Paul Palmeter/CBC - image credit)
The Amherst fire department says the fire started in a second-floor apartment in the middle of the building and spread to the roof. (Paul Palmeter/CBC - image credit)

A fire Tuesday evening caused significant damage to a four-unit apartment complex in Amherst, N.S., and has displaced several families.

The Amherst fire department discovered smoke billowing out of the eves of the two-storey building when they arrived shortly before 7 p.m. AT, according to a release from the town.

Firefighters determined a fire on the second floor of a middle unit had spread to the roof, which was heavily damaged.

Capt. John Matthews, who speaks for the fire department, said in the release that teams worked inside the building and encountered challenges because the roof had many layers. He said firefighters were covered in insulation when they left to get air.

No people or pets were hurt.

Paul Palmeter/CBC
Paul Palmeter/CBC

The Canadian Red Cross said it is assisting 15 people, including adults and children ages two and up with food, clothing and emergency housing.

Angie Lohnes, a supervisor at the organization's service centre in Amherst, was at the scene. She said volunteers handed out blankets as well as hygiene and comfort kits.

"Those needs will be assessed ... as they try to find new accommodations to move into, when they actually get to see if there's anything they can actually retrieve from their apartments," she said.

"[We] try to make the bad event a little bit better for them as they try to go through and pick up the pieces."

She said several agencies in the area will be assisting in the days ahead.

Paul Palmeter/CBC
Paul Palmeter/CBC

The fire department said some of the units sustained smoke and water damage, but a middle unit was extensively damaged.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Firefighters remained at the scene Tuesday morning and a section of Gerard Avenue was closed.

About 35 firefighters responded, including crews from Truemanville and Springhill as well as from Sackville, N.B.

Housing situation 'dire'

Dawn Ferris, executive director of the Cumberland County Transition House Association, told CBC Radio's Maritime Noon that the housing situation in Amherst is already "dire" with many people looking for places to live.

"It's not going to be an easy haul for the families, which is tragic. On top of all the stress they're going through. We just don't have available places to rent. And those places that have been available — that people are moving into — there are significantly higher costs," said Ferris.

She said her organization will do what it can to help, but it serves people leaving violent situations and the transition house is full.

"There is a huge homelessness problem in Cumberland," said Ferris.

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