Less than two months after a devastating fire in N.D.G. killed one man and injured another, residents are still struggling to come to terms with their living situation.
But still, hanging on the brown brick wall, above a boarded-up window on the corner of de Maisonneuve Blvd. and Marlowe Ave., a sign boldly advertises “apartments for rent.”
McGill students Adam Laidlaw and Chloe McMillan live in apartment 16 in the wing opposite the one gutted by flames on Nov. 17.
“We were here reading the Publisac when we heard the fire alarm go off,” McMillan said, recalling that night. As soon as she realized the severity of the situation, she said, she yelled “grab the cat!” to her roommate.
After rushing outside minutes after the alarm went off, with her cat in her arms, McMillan said she saw other tenants watching in horror as their homes went up in flames.
“A lot of people in the building had pets and were standing there with their animals in their arms. One person’s cat is still missing and we don’t know what happened to it.”
Though they were not permitted to live in their home for nine days, they returned the morning after the fire to assess the damage. “It smelled of smoke in our apartment,” McMillan said. “But aside from the door having been knocked down by the firefighters, the damage wasn’t so bad.
“We spoke with a policewoman … and she told us that they had to conduct an investigation before we could return safely. But we were able go in and pick up a change of clothes.”
Back in the comfort of their home, Laidlaw and McMillan said they recognize that they were lucky the fire did not destroy their apartment. Reflecting on that point, Laidlaw said over half the building’s residents have either been relocated or have left the residence of their own accord.
“The tenants of about 18 apartments had to relocate,” he said, noting the couple that lived in the dwelling above them terminated the lease because their roof had burned down. “They told us that they could see the sky from their kitchen.”
Laidlaw and McMillan said that although no foul play was suspected, the landlord has yet to give any concrete information as to the cause of the fire. While she wouldn’t rule out the possibility of an electrical fire, McMillan said, “It was probably a kitchen accident caused by a gas stove. But I’m only speculating.”
Though the resident superintendent for the building was unavailable for comment, a friend who was visiting last Sunday afternoon said that the 85-year-old woman was “saddened and very depressed” by the incident.
Regardless of the sign advertising vacancies, with winter in full swing and construction still underway, it remains questionable whether tenants who lived in the destroyed apartments will return any time soon.