Greenboro fire leaves 5 temporarily homeless

Five residents of Ottawa's Greenboro neighbourhood are temporarily homeless after a fire ripped through a row of townhouses on Silverlace Private on Easter Sunday.

Neighbours heard the sound of shattering glass and popping tires just after 5 p.m. on Sunday as billowing smoke enveloped the four connected units.

'I saw black smoke so thick you couldn't even see through it. It was so scary.' - Iris Henderson

Iris Henderson, a retired public servant, was inside her house when the fire started in the unit to the right of her home. 

'I didn't see flames, but I saw black smoke so thick you couldn't even see through it. It was so scary," she said.

Henderson said a friend who lives across the street banged on her door and helped her get her dog, Willow, out of the house. Henderson got into her car and drove a couple streets over, where she watched as more than a dozen firefighters battled the blaze.

Judy Trinh/CBC

As Henderson was fleeing, Cynthia Johnston, who lived to the left of the unit where the blaze started, was trying desperately to get home after receiving a phone call telling her about fire.

"Panic did set in. I was really scared that my house was gone that I was going to lose my animals," said Johnston, whose three cats and rabbit trapped inside the home. 

Ottawa police blocked off Lorry Greenberg Drive at Hunt Club Road as well as the main entrance to Silverlace Private to allow firefighters to do their work.

It took fire crews about 40 minutes to get the flames under control, but it would take several more hours to ensure all the hot spots were put out. Around 8 p.m. Johnston rejoiced as she watched firefighters walk out of her damaged home carrying her animals.

On Tuesday, Johnston surveyed the damage to her two-story townhouse with her insurance adjuster. The front of her home is charred black, while the siding has melted off the back of her house. There are holes in her roof that need to be patched and interior walls damaged from smoke and water will have to be torn down and replaced.

Johnston, who is renting the house, says she's been told it will take at least six months for the repairs to be completed. In the meantime she also has to find somewhere else to live — but is feeling fortunate.

"'I'm feeling a lot of relief that nobody was hurt. I have my cats, I have my bunny. This is just stuff and it can all be replaced," she said.

Judy Trinh/CBC

Ottawa fire investigators say the fire started in the basement of 72 Silverlace Private then spread to the garage and the adjacent units. The cause has been deemed to be accidental, investigators say.

Fire investigators say unit 72 is uninhabitable. Damages to all three homes is estimated at $400,000.

Adjoining units have significant smoke damage, and those residents will have to find temporary housing elsewhere while their homes are repaired.

Volunteers with the Red Cross put Henderson and her dog up in a hotel for three nights, but the retiree is worried about where she will stay as her home is undergoing repairs.

Although it has significant smoke damage, her home is structurally sound.  Henderson's insurer has told her it will still take two months to repair. In the meantime the company wants her to pay for temporary lodging up front while her claim is being processed, a policy that is adding to Henderson's stress.

Henderson is on a fixed income and is unsure if she has the money to cover those costs.

"I'm displaced, and I'm just upset. It's hard. I don`t know what I will do next."