ByWard Market gradually reopens after Friday fire

Firefighters and police were still at the scene on William Street in the ByWard Market Saturday morning after a devastating fire shut down businesses on April 12, 2019.

Owner of restaurant hit hardest says he’s ‘devastated’

Businesses in the ByWard Market are gradually reopening after a devastating fire Friday damaged shops and shut down the area’s main market building Friday. 

Emergency crews were called at 11:30 a.m. to Vittoria Trattoria, a restaurant in a century-old building at 35 William St., just before the fire spread to the buildings on either side.

A shroud of thick smoke covered the area, forcing an evacuation of the main market building at55 ByWard Market Square.

I’m just devastated, overwhelmed.- Domenic   Santaguida , owner of Vittoria Trattoria  

Domenic Santaguida, the owner of the restaurant, returned to the scene Saturday morning, where police and fire services were still present on the closed-off street. 

“I’m just devastated, overwhelmed,” Santaguida said. “I’m still in shock … there’s nothing we can do [except] wait for information and get ready to build and come back stronger.”

He said he hasn’t been told how bad the damage is yet, other than that the entire roof and parts of the second floor have collapsed. 

He said he isn’t sure when he’ll be able to return to the restaurant, which he co-founded in 1996. 

Domenic Santaguida, the owner of Vittoria Trattoria, says parts of the second floor and the entire roof of his restaurant collapsed in the fire at the ByWard Market Friday.

Most businesses reopen

In addition to Vittoria Trattoria, five other businesses remained closed Saturday morning. William Street will also remain closed until the evening, Ottawa police said.

Ottawa Markets, the arm’s-length city agency that runs publicly owned parts of the market, said yesterday that most of its vendors would reopen at 10 a.m. Saturday.

While most of the artisan vendors at the main market building were up and running Saturday, food-related businesses would have to wait for clearance from public health officials, said Jeff Darwin, the agency’s executive director. 

Darwin said it was surreal to watch employees running out of the fire-damaged buildings. 

“The ByWard Market is a mosaic and we need each other,” he said. “[The] loss of one affects us all.”

Jeff Darwin, the executive director of Ottawa Markets, said that food-related businesses in the main market building would have to wait for the go-ahead from Ottawa Public Health before reopening.

Cleanup continues

A team of remediation specialists will be in the main building for most of the day to help clean up, and air purification units will be used to remove the smell of smoke from the air, Darwin said. 

Ottawa Markets, the ByWard Market and Mayor Jim Watson have been encouraging people to visit the market to support the businesses after the fire.

Leonard Constant, who has lived near the ByWard Market for 35 years, said he visited the site of the fire twice to survey the damage and reflect on the loss.

“Every time a piece of our history is burnt away, I feel as though a part of me has been torn away,” he said.

Ottawa Fire Services said its initial damage assessment is estimated to be $2 million.

Investigators are still working to determine the cause of the fire.

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