UPDATE (Tuesday, 10:30 a.m.) – Apartment catches fire on Dickey Street

All residents, including pets, get out of the building

Dave Mathieson webcomments@ngnews.ca
Published on April 14, 2014

AMHERST - Firefighters, police, paramedics and the Red Cross responded to a fire Monday on the corner Dickey and Rupert Streets in Amherst.

The fire started at 8:30 p.m., and the Amherst fire department, along with the Truemanville Fire Department, was on the scene until midnight.

Amherst Fire Chief Greg Jones says the blaze was mostly contained to an apartment on the second level and the unit above it, but there was water damage in adjacent areas and smoke throughout the building, in which at least 16 apartments were occupied.

Jones says nobody was hurt and nobody was taken to hospital.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, and Jones says they hope to determine the cause by late Tuesday morning.

Darlene Melanson lives in the apartment directly above the second level fire. She arrived on scene shortly before the fire department.

"My daughter and me had gone to the store and we just pulled in, and the apartment below ours was on fire," said Melanson.

She ran into the apartment to rescue her dog.

"I had to run in to get my dog out, and there was smoke everywhere. The whole back of the house is gone," she said. "We lost everything. I'm a single mother and I lost everything."

Witnesses at the scene say a single male occupied the second floor apartment that caught fire.

The apartment's maintenance man says everybody got out safely.

"Nobody will be allowed back in tonight," he said as firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze.

He estimates that 16 apartments are currently being rented inside the apartment building and hopes people will be able to return to the building on Tuesday.

Melanson was still looking for her cat as firefighters were putting the fire out.

Just as she started to cry about not being able to find her cat, a firefighter carried a fluffy white and grey cat from the apartment building. Melanson ran across the street but, unfortunately for her, it wasn't her cat.

Another person stranded outside her apartment was Kristie Porter. She has a five-year-old daughter, a three-year-old son, and another baby on the way.

"I just set up all my baby stuff," she said.

They were watching a movie when they heard sirens.

"We thought it (the sirens) was the movie," said Porter.

A friend ran downstairs and came back up to tell them the fire department was there.

Porter scooped up her kids and her dog Hydro, and exited the building safely.

Penny Henneberry of the Canadian Red Cross was at the fire station Monday night where the Red Cross established an emergency shelter equipped with cots, blankets, personal-care items and food so people displaced by the fire could spend the night in a community room at the fire hall.

She says 29 people were displaced by the fire and about 20 of those people are staying with friends and relatives, while the rest are staying at the fire hall.

A decision as to how long the shelter will remain available wasn't made until later on Tuesday, after damage to the building is assessed and there's a better idea of when tenants can safety return home.

Henneberry says several factors come into play when determining how long before people are allowed to return home.

"The fire has to be assessed, and once the fire inspection is done the insurance company will investigate, and then it's up to the owner to decide when they can return to their apartments," she said.

Depending on the situation, the turnaround can happen quite fast.

"We hope they will back in their apartment Tuesday but you just never know."

Both Henneberry and Jones say it appears all pets were rescued.

"We were able to get in and get the cats, and CARMA (Cat Rescue Maritimes, Amherst Chapter) stepped in and brought some cat carriers for the cats," said Henneberry.

The Salvation Army was also assisting the Red Cross.