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Woman charged with attempted murder in Overbrook fire that displaced 60 people


A 31-year-old woman has been charged with attempted murder and arson in relation to an Overbrook apartment building fire that left about 60 people homeless.

Four people, including a child, were rescued from the burning building four-storey, 32-unit apartment building after the major blaze broke out late Tuesday afternoon.

Ottawa police said Wednesday afternoon that Pamela Shillingford, 31, has been charged with arson to property, arson endangering life and attempted murder. She appeared in court Wednesday afternoon.

The Ottawa police arson unit and the Ontario Fire Marshal's office are investigating the blaze, an effort that's expected to take days.

Paramedics told CTV News Ottawa that seven patients were assessed at the scene. Two adults were transported to hospital in stable condition. Two firefighters suffered minor injuries while battling the blaze.

The blaze broke out around 5:20 p.m. and quickly went from a two-alarm fire to a three-alarm fire as crews called in additional firefighters to help deal with the powerful flames.

Ottawa Fire Service spokesperson Nick DeFazio says firefighters entered the building twice and had to evacuate the building twice because of unsafe conditions. Flames could be seen shooting out of the roof of the four-storey building and within an apartment on the top floor.

The building is a Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation building. The non-profit housing organization says it is working with the Ottawa Fire Service on the investigation into the blaze.

"Our top priority today is the safety of our tenants, and we are focused on supporting those who were displaced last night," executive director Sarah Button said in an email Wednesday.

Ottawa Fire officials said people affected by the fire can meet at the Overbrook Community Centre at 33 Quill St.

George Mullins is one of the tenants of the building. He escaped from the building when he saw black smoke and flames from his neighbour's balcony.

"I panicked and ran out the door without thinking getting a few things I needed but I’d rather save my life," he said. "I’m still shaken up from it. I don’t know what the damage is. I’m not covered by insurance."

Firefighters brought out what they could salvage from his apartment. All that was recovered was a few photos. 

"That's my wife’s family photos," he said. "She passed away six years ago." 

Other things, his clothes, his furniture, are gone.

Persia Terrones, another tenant, has insurance, but it won't cover everything. 

"We do have renters insurance, but it only covers $10,000," Terrones said. "That's like new furniture. It doesn't replace your other stuff."

The building was evacuated Tuesday night and a search turned up no other people inside. OC Transpo buses were nearby to offer temporary shelter, but tenants are now looking for longer term options. The Red Cross and the Salvation Army have been called in to help tenants who need support.

For safety reasons, Hydro Ottawa cut power to the area as firefighters battled the blaze. Approximately 2,100 customers were affected for several hours. Power started being restored to some customers around 8:30 p.m.

The fire was declared under control just before 9 p.m. but firefighters remained on scene well into the evening hours.

Crews remained on scene Wednesday morning on "fire watch," officials said, monitoring and extinguishing hot spots.

A fire investigator has been sent to the scene to determine what caused the fire.

--With files from CTV News Ottawa's Jackie Perez. Top Stories

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