News / Ottawa

Massive Nepean fire started on balcony outside of units

Fire investigator looking at discarded cigarettes as a possible cause in $3.5 million blaze.

The fire started on the balcony in the upper left part of this photo, before rapidly spreading through the adjoining units.

Ryan Tumilty / Metro

The fire started on the balcony in the upper left part of this photo, before rapidly spreading through the adjoining units.

A massive fire that tore through dozens of apartments in Nepean Sunday afternoon started on a balcony outside and fire investigators are looking at cigarettes as a possible cause.

The Ontario Fire Marshal is investigating the four-alarm blaze the forced dozens from their homes and caused an estimated $3.5 million in damages.

William Hay, an investigator with the Ontario Fire Marshall’s office, said they know where the fire started, but at this point, they can’t say for sure what started it.

“What we’re looking at is a number of possible ignition sources that we haven’t confirmed yet, but we can say with a certainty that it started on the balcony,” he said.

He said cigarettes are one possible cause, but there are other possibilities. He said they’re waiting for some tests to be sure, but they don’t suspect the fire was deliberately set.

The fire broke out on Sunday afternoon and quickly spread through several adjoining units. Ottawa firefighters called a second alarm before they even arrived on scene and escalated it further to a third and fourth alarm as the blaze grew.

That brought dozens of firefighters to the scene and crews doused it with two separate aerial units at times.

Hay said the fire quickly got into the roof and attic of the structure and that allowed it to spread quickly through the building.

“The roof itself wraps around the top of the building and the fire penetrated into the roof and once inside there was nothing to stop it,” he said. “It can spread rapidly throughout sections of the building once it reaches into the attic space.”

Ottawa Fire chief Gerry Pingitore said the 65 to 70 people displaced from the units could be out a long time , because so much water was used to put out the fire.

“That water penetrates the lower floor across the building, so there will be extensive reconstruction and renovation required,” he said.

He said Minto, the rental company that owns the units, helped move people to other vacant properties they have in Ottawa.

He said even though the fire was a big draw on resources it didn’t interfere with fire department operations.

“At the very same time we had this fire, we had a kitchen fire downtown and a water rescue and we had sufficient resources to deploy.”

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