My community lost a lovely heritage home to fire last night
I thought some of you could sympathise, and appreciate, the loss that my neighbourhood suffered last night. Thankfully the owners are safe (as is their cat), and the two firefighters injured fighting the blaze have been released from hospital. But their home, that they lovingly restored and carefully preserved, and where they raised their children, has been gutted. I've been in the house a few times - you guys would have just loved how it was decorated.
It isn't the grandest or largest house in our neighbourhood, but it may be the most loved. Known as the Frechette House, is was one of the jewels in the crown of my community. I've pasted an article below where they discuss the extent of the damage to the heritage home, and here is a picture of it in better times.
They call it a "Gothic Revival Villa" - I wonder about that description, perhaps Pal & others can chime in on that. Regardless the style, its loss is just terrible. A very sad day.
A well-known Ottawa heritage home known as Fréchette House at 87 MacKay St. in New Edinburgh should be “salvageable” according to a local expert with Heritage Ottawa.
Still, the three-alarm fire that injured two firefighters and displaced two people caused an estimated $1 million in damages, mostly to the roof and second floor of the home, which was built in 1877 in the style of a Gothic Revival Villa.
On the scene Friday morning, Leslie Maitland from Heritage Ottawa, a non-profit group, said she knew immediately which house was ablaze when she learned about the fire.
“It’s a very important structure to the city,” she said, noting that the red brick house with yellow brick trim was built at a time when New Edinburgh was becoming an upper middle-class neighbourhood.
Novelist Annie Thomas Howells and her husband, poet and translator Achille Fréchette, lived in the home from 1881 to 1921 and contributed to the neighbourhood’s reputation as a “literary haven” in Ottawa.
While an expert hadn’t yet been on scene to assess the damage or the potential for reconstruction, both Maitland and Marc Messier from Ottawa Fire Service said they were confident the home could be restored.
“The walls seem to be in good condition,” she said looking at the two-storey home. “The roof is gone and the windows,” but “it looks salvageable,” she said.
Messier said while the exterior looked good, the interior of the home would need to be “gutted” as fire, smoke, soot and water had damaged both floors irreparably.
The home’s owners had spent a lot of time and money ensuring the house was kept in good repair, said Maitland.
The home is headquarters of Tim Plumptre and Associates, Inc., a “boutique” consulting firm specializing in public policy issues, run by Plumptre and his wife, Barbara Laskin.
Laskin was still gathering her thoughts when reached by phone Friday morning.
“I’m a bit numb,” she said. “It’s a great house.”
One firefighter was taken to hospital with upper body injuries after part of the roof collapsed, Messier said.
A second member of the crew was treated for first-degree burns due to the level of heat in the upper level of the home, said Messier.
Both firefighters were released from hospital shortly after being treated.
Shortly before midnight, several people called 911 when they saw flames coming from the home at MacKay and Union streets, near the grounds of the governor general’s residence at Rideau Hall.
The blaze proved difficult to contain due largely to the home’s construction, said Messier. “Homes were built stronger back then,” he said, “so it’s more labour-intensive to open them up,” and get at the fire.
He explained that modern walls are mostly just drywall, which is easily brought down by a fire axe, however older walls are built with slats of wood an inch or so wide, with plaster laid over top, sometimes with steel mesh added. “It’s not just a matter of taking an axe” to the wall, Messier said. “You need to hack at it,” so it takes longer and tires the crews out more quickly.
Older homes also have more room between the walls and, usually, a foot of space between the ceiling and the roof. The fire feeds on that space and makes it harder to control, said Messier.
Ottawa Fire Service pegged damages at $1 million because of the building’s heritage status.
Ontario’s Fire Marshal was en route to the scene to investigate what caused the overnight fire, but Messier said they are treating it as an accident likely related to the fireplace and the wooden shingles.
“It looks like it was just a case of bad luck,” he said, positing that a piece of ember could have flown out of the chimney, landed on the roof and sparked the blaze.