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Bouctouche tenants struggle to find housing after devastating fire

Arjay Nagrampa lost his belongings when his Bouctouche apartment burned to the ground. He fled the fire with only the clothes on his back, a coat and his cellphone. (Louis-Philippe Trozzo/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Arjay Nagrampa lost his belongings when his Bouctouche apartment burned to the ground. He fled the fire with only the clothes on his back, a coat and his cellphone. (Louis-Philippe Trozzo/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Arjay Nagrampa returned to see the charred piles of debris left behind after his Bouctouche apartment burned to the ground this week.

Fleeing the fire with only the clothes on his back, a coat and his cellphone, Nagrampa lost nearly all his belongings,  including his passport and work permit.

"It's all burnt," he said. "I am very sad, I am very devastated."

Nagrampa, a temporary foreign worker from the Philippines, is one of several tenants left struggling to find a new place to live after fire tore through a large building in downtown Bouctouche late Monday night and into Tuesday. Five apartments and three businesses were destroyed.

On Monday night, Nagrapma had just returned home to his second-floor apartment from a shift at the Subway restaurant where he works. He was watching TV when he noticed smoke outside his window. Then, the fire alarm went off.

"I'm shocked and I'm very surprised," Nagrampa said, explaining he went to check on his neighbours before fleeing.

"I did not take any of my belongings. I just saved myself."

Staring at the remains of the building on Wednesday, Nagrampa said he loved his apartment, his home after coming to Canada eight months ago to work at the restaurant.

The destroyed building takes up nearly a block, leaving a void in downtown Bouctouche. It was walking distant for several tenants who work at nearby restaurants and don't have vehicles.
The destroyed building takes up nearly a block, leaving a void in downtown Bouctouche. It was walking distant for several tenants who work at nearby restaurants and don't have vehicles.

The destroyed building takes up nearly a block, leaving a void in downtown Bouctouche. Several tenants work at nearby restaurants and don't have vehicles. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC)

He said he worked hard to buy furniture, appliances and a television with his earnings from Subway. All those belongings are gone. He didn't have apartment insurance but said the Red Cross has offered some help getting food and clothing.

Nagrampa also lost his official documents, including his passport and work permit.

The displaced tenants are facing a limited supply of rental units in a rural community of about 2,300 people.

Nagrampa's roommate, also from the Philippines, works at the nearby Pizza Delight and is also displaced. The two have found a temporary place to stay for now, with other members of the Filipino community in the area.

They chose the apartment because it was a short walk to the restaurants and neither of them have a car.

"That's the biggest challenge here, is to find a new apartment," Nagrampa said.

"We are very thankful for the Filipino couple who welcomed us to their apartment, to stay for a couple of days, or maybe a month, for free."

A large building in Bouctouche burned to the ground, destroyed five apartments and three businesses, including the Dixie Lee restaurant, a florist and a smoothie shop.
A large building in Bouctouche burned to the ground, destroyed five apartments and three businesses, including the Dixie Lee restaurant, a florist and a smoothie shop.

A large building in Bouctouche burned to the ground, and destroyed five apartments and three businesses, including the Dixie Lee restaurant, a florist and a smoothie shop. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC)

When the fire broke out, Léa Gallant was watching a hockey game in her first floor apartment. She initially didn't hear the alarm go off, but a neighbour started knocking loudly on her door.

"When he said, 'Léa, there's a fire, then I opened the door," she said in French.

Gallant, 79, fled the building and went to stay with her nephew. Now she's searching for a new apartment, but like Naranga, she also needs to be in the town centre.

Her daughter Pauline Gallant said many people are reaching out to suggest apartments, but they are all too expensive or far away from the downtown.

"She wants to be within the town limits where she's close to everything. It needs to be a reasonable price because she's on a pension," she said.

Léa Gallant, 79, is searching for a new place to live after losing her apartment in the fire. Due to her mobility challenges, she needs a ground-floor unit.
Léa Gallant, 79, is searching for a new place to live after losing her apartment in the fire. Due to her mobility challenges, she needs a ground-floor unit.

Léa Gallant, 79, is searching for a new place to live after losing her apartment in the fire. Because of mobility challenges, she needs a ground-floor unit. (Louis-Philippe Trozzo/Radio-Canada)

Because she has hip issues, Léa Gallant can only live on a ground floor apartment, further limiting her search.

Aldéo Saulnier, the mayor of Grand-Bouctouche, said the region has little to no affordable rentals available.

"If you find one, you're lucky," he said.

Saulnier said the municipality is working with the tenants and is going to do what it can to help them in their search.

The community has made a donation of clothing to the displaced tenants.