Aftermath of deadly Winnipeg fire all too common, says local association

The fallout of a devastating College Avenue fire in Winnipeg is an unfortunate example of an all-too-common situation, a local property management association said.

The Tuesday morning blaze — which caused the death of one resident and seriously injured two others — left Tamara Bard homeless. While she was able to safely escape with some possessions and her dog, Bard said she didn’t have renters’ insurance and is now forced to look for an alternative means of shelter.

Avrom Charach, vice-president of the Professional Property Managers Association, told 680 CJOB that insurance can help tenants stay on their feet until they find a new place to live in case disaster strikes. He added that he understood how, for some, that’s just not an affordable option.

This is despite what he said were past efforts from firefighters and insurance industry associations to make it mandatory.

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Further complicating Bard’s case is her assertion that she had filed complaints against tenants in the unit above her, where she alleges the fire started, with no apparent effect.

Police confirmed to Global News that they responded to what they said was a domestic incident there Monday night. They said they couldn’t confirm if the incident they responded to was linked with the fire.

Tamara Bard, a resident of the building on College Avenue that was struck with fire on Jan. 15, 2024, said she was not connected with city support services after being forced to evacuate her residence. Josh Arason / Global News

Bard said she’s complained about that suite in the past about both noise and garbage, but never saw changes made.

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According to Charach, landlords face significant challenges trying to evict even problem tenants.

“We’ve had cases where we go to the Residential Tenancies Branch and they don’t side with us, because they say we don’t have enough evidence,” he said.

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“We’ve had more than one case where we’ve actually subpoenaed the police to attend at an appeal hearing. Once the police actually attend and say, ‘yeah, we saw it too’, it becomes much easier to get rid of the tenant. It’s a lot of work, though.”

Noise or disturbance complaints, he said, typically need to be airtight cases with a lot of proof for decisive action to be taken.

“Pull out your cellphone and make recordings. If you have evidence that’s third-party and impartial, it makes it much easier,” Charach said.

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As for Bard, the reality of what happened is still sinking in. She said she’s planning to stay short-term with a friend and “mentally process” everything before making big decisions.

In an earlier interview with Global News on Jan. 16, Bard said she did not receive emergency assistance when the fire struck. Since then, she’s been connected with some supports.

“The city reached out to me and so did the Red Cross and they are going to help me financially with a few things,” she said.

Global News has made repeated attempts to speak to Bard’s landlord, Ember Realty, about the fire and her complaints, but a response was not received.

— with files from Global’s Teagan Rasche.

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Click to play video: 'Resident says she wasn’t connected with city supports after College Avenue fire in Winnipeg'

Resident says she wasn’t connected with city supports after College Avenue fire in Winnipeg

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