70 firefighters battle massive blaze on Somerset St. W.
TRACEY TONG/METRO OTTAWA
Amongst the hundreds of spectators who watched as firefighters battled a huge blaze along Somerset Street West yesterday, Tommy Tin had added reason to be horrified.
Tin’s family owns the Asia Market grocery on the ground floor of 801 Somerset St. W. and could only watch helplessly as firefighters doused the flames shooting from the roof of the building.
“A friend called this morning and said there was a fire. I came down here. All I can do is look,” he said. “I can’t do anything.”
The fire, reported at 3:34 a.m., reduced a three-storey, multiple address building at 807 Somerset St. W. to rubble yesterday and gutted the building at 801 Somerset that contained the grocery and upper-level apartments. Although there were no injuries or deaths, 31 people were left homeless by the blaze, according to Ottawa Police Const. Al Boucher.
The Ottawa Fire Department had 26 fire trucks and 70 firefighters on scene all day yesterday and remained overnight to watch for flare-ups from hot spots, said Acting Platoon Chief Jim Corrigan.
“The cause is undetermined,” said Corrigan. “It’s still under investigation.”
Smoke alarms in the apartment units were working. “That got the people out,” Corrigan said.
District Chief Brian Truelove said the fire department will today tear down the shell of 801 Somerset St. W., due to extensive damage.
“The building is not safe and it has to come down,” Truelove said.
The fire reminded Willow Street resident Chris King of a blaze in April 2005 just across the street at the former Mekong Grocery Store that killed five members of a single family.
“It brings back difficult memories,” said King. “Fortunately, this time nobody was hurt, but the economic damage to the area is quite significant. This is very much the centre of the commercial area. It’s quite a big blow.”
Barry Munroe woke up at 3 a.m. yesterday to a room full of smoke that had drifted into the bedroom of his Eccles Street apartment, south of Somerset.
“I thought (my) apartment was on fire,” said Munroe, one of hundreds of people lining the streets to watch the firefighters in action yesterday.
“It smelled like the fire was right there. I looked out the window and the fire was 20 feet in the air. It was black smoke. The roof was burning.”More coverage, page 3.