'Like a crime scene': Residents return to homes destroyed by explosion

You can see clear through Carlson's home in east Ottawa into the backyard after the explosion. (Joseph Tunney/CBC - image credit)
You can see clear through Carlson's home in east Ottawa into the backyard after the explosion. (Joseph Tunney/CBC - image credit)

Walking into his east Ottawa house for the first time since last Monday's explosion nearby, Ian Carlson is greeted by cracked ceilings, exposed insulation and most of his back wall missing.

Looking through his front door is akin to looking through a tunnel, with a straight view into the backyard.

Upstairs, the ceiling over his 17-month-old son's crib has collapsed. The last time he entered the room was to hurriedly grab his son before fleeing for safety.

His family moved in just two months ago.

"When you're living there, it feels like home, right?" Carlson said Thursday after emerging from the house with a few personal belongings in hand.

"Walking in there today, it's … like a crime scene. It doesn't have that sense of that home that you had before."

Joseph Tunney/CBC
Joseph Tunney/CBC

Police have since handed the site off Tenth Line Road back over to developer Minto Communities as what has become an arson investigation continues.

Homeowners such as Carlson in the Avalon Vista community are now discovering details like red Xs painted on the fronts of their property, remnants of search-and-rescue efforts.

"It almost seems a little foreign," Carlson said. "It's like you see your belongings, but everything is just broken and scattered."

Joseph Tunney/CBC
Joseph Tunney/CBC

Since the Feb. 13 morning blast, many thoughts have run through Carlson's head, like whether his home would be a write-off and what the extent of the repairs would be.

Four homes around the corner were shattered into bits.

"[There's] debris everywhere because the whole back wall was pretty much just blown off," he said, describing the inside of his home.

"So it's just glass, debris, furniture scattered around. It looks like there's an explosion that went off behind the house."

When he fled the house, he said he didn't notice any of that damage, focusing solely on the escape with two children.

Submitted by Rosalinn Bulmer
Submitted by Rosalinn Bulmer

A structural engineer visited the home Thursday, but much remains uncertain,

"Everything's still up in the air," Carlson said. "Knowing that the foundation is structurally sound means they'll probably keep at least the foundation and most of the structures as much as they can.

"But you know, that's up to the insurance."

Residents want answers

Several people were injured and two people were pulled alive from the rubble after a gas leak triggered the explosion on Blossom Pass Terrace, according to firefighters. Nobody was killed.

Jiao Lee says life hasn't yet returned to normal. The idea the leak possibly started inside a house in her development is almost too much to bear.

"If it's inside the house, that means [it] is the construction, right?" she said on Wednesday. "If it's construction, if they have a mistake there, they might have mistakes in my house or another house.

"I don't want to think about it."

"Whatever the reason was, it should be found out," said Abhi Mann, another neighbour.

Minto said in an email Thursday that safety is its top priority as it cleans up, checks homes and looks to resume

WATCH | What happened that morning in Avalon Vista:

Ottawa police said it may take weeks before more details on its investigation are released.

"I know that the Ottawa police are working very hard on this but it's stressful … for everybody in this community," Orléans South-Navan Coun. Catherine Kitts said Wednesday.

"We want to know what happened here so it never happens again."