‘We weren’t able to breathe,’: residents describe escape from Oxford Street blaze that injured two

Large volumes of water put on building fire

Fire crews work to douse a fire at 1004 Oxford Street East Thursday, April 18, 2019 (Liny Lambeirnk / 980 CFPL)

A group of young men — many of them exchange students from India — say they escaped a blaze at their Oxford Street apartment by jumping out of its windows.

“We all just woke up and we feel the smoke and we weren’t able to breathe,” said Malav Rami, who lives inside one of three residential units at 1004 Oxford St.

“The entrance to our apartment is totally burning. We can’t see our hall area so we decided to go to the back and break the window and just jump from there.”

Rami describes the harrowing experience while standing outside with three fellow roommates — some with feet wrapped in gauze, some huddled under blankets — watching as firefighters doused the building they call home. They tell reporters that a fifth roommate was sent to hospital.

Boys being attended to by EMS

A group of young men who live in one of the building’s three units say they jumped through a window to escape the flames. (Liny Lamberink/980 CFPL)

Crews were called to the blaze around 6:40 a.m. Thursday, and Acting Deputy Fire Chief Jack Burt says two people — including one firefighter — were sent to hospital with minor injuries.

Burt describes the damage at 1004 Oxford St., a two-storey structure that’s also home to Simpson Variety, as “extensive.”

“When crews arrived, they found a working structure fire with people coming out of the building and fire spreading to the neighbouring building next door,” he said.

Police look on as Fire Fighters work

The front of 1004 Oxford Street is a convenience store, but the building stretches far back from the road and has three apartments. (Liny Lamberink/980 CFPL)

“It didn’t register at first… and then he came and knocked on my door again and he said: ‘Get out now! It’s really on fire,’” Gale explained.

“My roommate, who was just getting ready to leave for work, he came out and he went back in to get the cat.”

Gale is worried about damage to his belongings and to the rooms of his two children, who were staying with their mom when the blaze started.

The fire marshal’s office has been called in to investigate.