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Tenants of Toronto Street apartments displaced after fire

Dozens of people are looking for a new place to live after a 111-year-old apartment block on Toronto Street in Winnipeg was destroyed by fire on Tuesday.

Catherine Robichaud, one of the building residents, said she was working from home when the fire alarm went off, but she didn’t hear it through her noise-cancelling headphones.

“I was like, ‘What is that really loud beeping noise?’ Then I was like ‘OK, hold on a second,’ unlocked my apartment door, and I saw smoke billowing out the top part of the door,” she said.

“I grabbed both my cats, I ran downstairs and I ran across the street, and I called 911,” she said. “It was scary.”

Robichaud said other than her cats, she escaped with a jacket, sweater, sandals, phone and keys.

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Scott Wilkinson, deputy fire chief, said most tenants were able to self-evacuate.

“Our crews did guide out some remaining people and made sure they kept a safe distance,” he said.

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Nearby resident, Sheryl Friesen, opened her doors to some of the displaced residents.

“There were elderly that were not able to walk, and needed an immediate place to sit and rest,” she said. “Some people didn’t even have their purse or ID, or wallets, or phones.”

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She said around 10 to 15 people hunkered down on her porch until the City of Winnipeg and the Red Cross took over.

The Red Cross told Global News they are assisting 41 people with lodging and food.

Next door, Audace Manirakiza’s property is covered in ice, but he’s relieved the house and his tenants are safe.

“Outside everything is OK, inside everything is OK. We just saw a little bit of water inside, but the house looks safe now,” he said.

Wilkinson said moving on with the investigation will be challenging.

“We’ve had a collapse of the roof structure and things on the upper floors, so access is going to be limited. Our investigators will work in collaboration with the Winnipeg Police Service using other means the best they can,” he said.

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“The building has sustained significant fire, smoke, and water damage and is expected to be a complete loss,” Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service said.

Among trying to replace her things, Robichaud is now tasked with finding an apartment within her budget. “It sucks to find something in my price range. (With) me being on disability, I get $700 for rent. That’s it.”

But she’s holding out hope she’ll soon find a new place to call home.

“It just sucks. Like, my home is gone. But, on the plus side I have my life and my cats. What more can I ask for?”

with files from Iris Dyck’s Global News

Click to play video: 'No injuries, but Toronto Street apartment block expected to be complete loss after massive blaze'

No injuries, but Toronto Street apartment block expected to be complete loss after massive blaze

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