EXCLUSIVE: Two homes destroyed in OEV explosion last year nearing rebuild
LONDON, ONT. -- Their homes destroyed in a massive explosion and fire, two homeowners are poised to return to Woodman Avenue.
Laura Earle spoke with CTV News in front of the fenced off lot at 448 Woodman Ave.
It’s where she once lived, and where she’s determined to live again.
"It’s going to mean a lot. We just can’t wait to get back here," says Earle who lived at 448 Woodman Ave. "Everyday we think about it. We walk down here. We drive past here. Say 'hi!' to the neighbours."
In two weeks, London will mark one year since a devastating blast in the Old East Village.
At 10:35 p.m. on Aug. 14, 2019, a car was driven into a gas meter in front of 450 Woodman Ave.
The house filled with gas and exploded into flames.
The home next door, which Earle shared with her partner, was among four others that were eventually demolished.
No one was killed, but several firefighters and police officers were hospitalized.
Earle says the last 11 months were difficult after losing everything.
We're "dealing with the traumatic effects that we still experience. We lean on each other, we lean on people in the community, family, and friends," she explains.
Earle and her neighbour at 450 Woodman have each applied for minor variances at city hall. It’s the last zoning requirement before construction can begin.
"It’s been a lot of ups and downs emotionally, going through the paperwork, choosing to rebuild," she adds.
Neighbours explain the gap in their streetscape is a reminder of the hole left in their tight-knit community when the residents had to move away.
Decorated hearts hang on the fencing around empty lots on Woodman Avenue in London, Ont. on Thursday, July 31, 2020. (Daryl Newcombe / CTV News)
Guy Rameau was thrilled to get a notice in his mailbox from city hall about the minor variance, knowing it meant neighbours were returning.
"It felt good, cause I know she was anxious and I know the other people are anxious to try and get back," adds Rameau.
Building an exact replica of the house that was destroyed isn’t possible, but Earle says the house that will rise at 448 Woodman will reflect the other architecture on the street.
"Hopefully, it will vibe with the neighbourhood!" she says with excitement. "The designer really took into consideration how these houses look."
The pandemic slowed down the process, but her resolve to break ground in a couple months remains strong.
"We’re hoping to start in the fall. It’s going to be emotional coming back, but very good emotions."
City Hall’s Committee of Adjustment will consider the minor variances for 448 and 450 Woodman on Aug. 13, just one day before the first anniversary of the explosion.
Daniella Alexandra Leis, 24, of Kitchener is facing 12 charges related to the car crash believed to have caused the gas leak.