Dozens of families are struggling to pick up the pieces after a devastating five-alarm fire at an apartment building on Victoria Avenue in Longueuil, Que., on Wednesday.
Nobody was injured in the Greenfield Park blaze, but with possessions lost and no place to go, victims say they need help.
“Oh wow,” said 29-year-old resident Sarah Maskell, filled with emotion as she laid eyes on her ruined apartment. “I don’t even have the words.”
Maskell, her 14-month-old son and her boyfriend have called the building home for the past four years.
Now, baby toys are covered by collapsed pieces of the ceiling, there is extensive water damage, and nearly everything she owns is destroyed.
“Having a 14-month-old baby and not having a home for him is just terrifying,” she said through tears.
She did manage to salvage some childhood photos and a few other sentimental items. “This is the only copy of these pictures,” she explained.
Maskell is far from alone. Whether due to fire and smoke damage or water damage, firefighters say none of the 46 units are livable anymore.
“It was three o’clock or three fifteen, I turned on ‘Let’s Make A Deal,’ opened my first beer and the alarm went crazy. I never even got a drink out of it,” said retiree John Varden.
According to building manager Helene Fortin, the blaze started on the side of the building where contractors were doing some brickwork. It quickly spread to the roof.
“It was like there was gas, it’s scary how fast it was,” Fortin told Global News.
About 110 firefighters battled the blaze well into Wednesday night. All the residents and their pets got out safely. The Red Cross stepped in to provide temporary help, but Maskell and dozens of others need permanent homes.
“That’s 45 families that need to find a place to live, in a pandemic,” Maskell said.
Making matters worse, according to the landlord, many didn’t have apartment insurance.
“Many, many people did not have insurance, and have lost everything,” Fortin explained.
Others are hearing from their insurance providers that they’re not covered.
“My insurance company feels that I wasn’t affected at 100 per cent, so they’re not covering anything. All they’re doing is covering my hotel stay for an extra two weeks,” said resident France Brazeau, who claims her apartment had water and smoke damage.
Friends and colleagues of the victims have set up a Go Fund Me page to help. The hope is to raise $1,000 for each affected family.
“We’re both on our pension and there’s not a whole lot of money,” said Varden.
“All things considered, I’ve been really blessed in this,” said Maskell. “But there are families that aren’t and they’re struggling and they don’t know where to go and they have medical needs.”
The 1640 Victoria Fire GoFund Me page can be found here.