Community rallies around residents of Verona housing complex destroyed by massive fire

Click to play video: 'Massive blaze destroys apartment complex in Verona, Ont. 30 people now displaced' Massive blaze destroys apartment complex in Verona, Ont. 30 people now displaced
WATCH: Sixty firefighters attended the fully involved Verona fire. All residents were evacuated safely, but one male was transported to hospital with smoke inhalation. – Jan 8, 2021

A massive fire has completely destroyed a housing complex in Verona, Ont., Thursday.

All the residents are safe, but they lost everything in the blaze. According to South Frontenac Fire & Rescue (SFFR), approximately 30 residents are now displaced.

A large structure fire kept firefighters busy overnight Thursday in Verona. Dominic Owens/Global News

Just after 10 p.m. Thursday, fire crews were called to McMullen Manor, a Kingston & Frontenac Housing Corporation (KFHC) building at 6094 Carleton Dr. in Verona.

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Read more: 30 people displaced following massive Verona, Ont. fire

According to fire officials, the fire started in one unit of the 28-unit complex.

McMullen Manor completely destroyed. Dominic Owens/Global News

“All of our resources were called in,” says Alex Bennett, SSFR deputy fire chief. “Whether crews responded or they were on standby to continue service for the rest of the township.

“The City of Kingston (fire department) did respond … Stone Mills (fire department) assisted as well.”

Deputy Fire Chief, Alex Bennett, South Frontenac Fire & Rescue. Global News

More than 60 firefighters were on scene battling the aggressive blaze, where the interior wooden structure fueled the flames and left exterior brick walls to collapse.

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By Thursday morning, fire crews remained on scene tackling hot spots and the fire was declared under control at 8 a.m.

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“It’s a tragedy,” says Jessie Hendrickson, a resident of the building. “Everybody’s life has just turned to dust overnight.”

The 29-year-old says he and his girlfriend, Katie Christine, had lived in the building for the last two years. They lost six cats in the fire.

Resident Jessie Hendrickson with his girlfriend, Katie Christine. Katie Christine/Global News

“I ran back into the building full of smoke,” says Hendrickson. “We were able to save one … that’s the only one we could find. They were all running around. We couldn’t get them out.”

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According to Deputy Fire Chief Bennett, one man was taken to hospital with smoke inhalation.

The burnt out complex in Verona. Global News

Next door, the Verona Free Methodist Church opened its doors to provide temporary shelter to the now homeless residents.

While several people are now staying with family or friends, some are being housed in a local hotel.

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“The tenants have lost the home and all their belongings,” says Mary Lynn Cousins Brame, CEO of KFHC.

Mary Lynn Cousins Brame, CEO of KFHC. Global News

The housing corporation is now working to find alternative accommodations for the burned-out tenants.

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“We will be working with each tenant ensuring that they have accommodations, food and any kind of support,” says Cousins Brame.

Looking over the fire scene with her husband and dogs, Annie Campbell who lives across the street from the destroyed complex building says, “the flames were like 30-feet in the air!”

She says the community is already coming together.

Annie Campbell lives across the street from the fire scene. Global News

“There is probably going to be a lot of fundraisers and different things going on,” says Campbell, “Giving these people shelter and clothing and everything they need.”

Mayor Ron Vandewal thanked all those who assisted in dousing the flames and attending to the people displaced by the fire.

“The loss of McMullen Manor will have a large impact on our residents; however, our community has always had a way of pulling together and looking after each other when times are tough,” Vandewal said in a press release.

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“We are already seeing a huge outpouring of support and donations to assist those impacted by this tragedy.”

The KFHC has also received hundreds of calls offering donations of food and clothing. The organization is currently working on a plan to handle the influx of donations, with more details to follow.

The Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office has now taken over the investigation, but according to South Frontenac OPP, the fire was not suspicious.

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