'I just want to go home,' Bradford fire residents could be displaced another 12 months
BRADFORD WEST GWILLIMBURY, ONT. -- An apartment building fire in Bradford West Gwillimbury that forced 118 residents to evacuate ignites frustration for many left uprooted from their homes for nearly a month.
Not one resident has been allowed back into their apartments since the fire broke out on March 22, not even to gather belongings left behind.
Al Collings recalled being trapped in the elevator when smoke began to pour in. "I pushed the second floor - the floor I lived on, and it took me up to the eight, and then it went to the seventh, and the smoke started coming in," he said. "I thought I was done because it wouldn't stop."
Collings said the elevator finally came to rest on the third floor, and he rolled out.
Residents from 79 units have been displaced. In a statement Tuesday, Danny Roth with Oz Management said while they understand the urgency for people to gain access to their apartments, it just isn't possible yet.
"We can not do that until we determine that the building is safe for resident access. Right now, it is not. It has not been deemed safe. There are structural issues that we are working through [and] there are environmental concerns that need to be addressed."
The County of Simcoe helped 31 families find living arrangements. "We have housed all but three families, but those families remain within our motel system, and we will continue to support them," said Jamie Moran, County of Simcoe.
Oz Property Management said it would provide more information for the uprooted residents about when they might gain access to their units in the coming days but added residents should prepare for at least another 12 months before the building is livable again.
For Sheila Costello, the news is devastating. Costello has been living in a motel for the past month but plans to move to a mobile home temporarily.
"I'm hoping I can find a place, but I would really love to go back to my apartment that was so comfortable for me," she said. "I just want to go home."