Blaze leaves several families homeless days before Christmas
An apartment fire on the weekend in Winnipeg has left multiple families homeless.
The blaze ripped through a Beverley Street complex on Saturday morning. No serious injuries were reported, but many tenants had to flee as the fire spread through the building.
A total of 20 tenants are homeless.
None of the residents had tenants insurance.
On Monday, Billy Dolinski, Rebecca Ouellette and their two young boys were among a group of tenants that returned to the burned out building to try and salvage what they could from their belongings.
Ouellette and Dolinski noticed a wisp of smoke in the hallway early Saturday morning and decided to leave.
Within moments, the fire had escalated.
"We took about 15 seconds to grab the kids out of their beds - just wrapped them in a blanket. By the time we got back to the hall it was pitch black with smoke," said Dolinski.
"I got two steps out of the front door – this apartment exploded. I was hit with hot shrapnel. (I) didn't realize it burnt me until hours later at the hospital," said Ouellette.
"It's one of the scariest things I've ever had to life through in my life," she said.
They were treated and released from hospital.
Marylou Copenace is another tenant who lived in the building. She lost almost everything and also doesn't have insurance.
"It's sad. We just got a Christmas hamper from Salvation Army. We got presents, but it looks like it has all gone bad now," she said.
Industry officials said some renters mistakenly believe their belongings are covered by the building's owner.
"(A) landlord is (responsible for) insuring the building and any improvements that they have done to it. The responsibility for any contents that you bring into it are yours," said Brent Gilbert from Hub International Horizon Insurance. He said tenants' insurance can cost about $20 to $25 per month and covers a person's property, along with providing coverage against claims made against a person if you accidentally damage property within a building.
The tenants who spoke with CTV News said they're relieved to have escaped the fire without any fatalities.
Rebecca Ouellette's family was also able to salvage a few items.
"Most of the stuff that we got (out) was our kids' stuff so thank god for that because they need something for Christmas," said Ouellette.
The damage from the fire is estimated at $625,000.
Police said the cause of the fire was accidental in nature. Officers said it was started by a cigarette that was not properly disposed of in the building.
- with a report from CTV's Jeff Keele