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'She had her face burnt': Woman suffers serious burns in London, Ont. tent fire

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Witnesses reported a woman living in a tent was seriously burned in an accidental fire Monday night.

At approximately 10 p.m., fire crews arrived at an area behind Cabinetmart, a business on Little Grey Street near Rectory Street. 

Christina Godoy, who lives next door, spotted the fire.

“I smelled something inside the home. And from that window, I saw the fire. I called the fire department right away,” she explained.

Godoy said firefighters arrived quickly and helped to treat the woman who had sustained burns to her head and body.

“She had her face burnt, and somebody had to help her in the front [lawn area],” she recalled.

The burnt and damaged belongings of woman experiencing homelessness are stacked into a truck on Nov. 28, 2023 in London, Ont. (Sean Irvine/CTV News London) Richard Oliver, a co-owner of the business, was saddened when he heard of the woman’s injuries. He and his business partner, Micheal Pasch, had noticed her living behind their building just over two weeks ago.

Oliver said the pair did notify police, but decide to let her stay as she wasn’t interfering with customers.

“She wasn‘t hurting anybody, and I know how bad it is and how difficult it is to be homeless. So, we just thought it would be a nice thing to not leave her out of the wind and whatnot,” she said.

But Godoy is not in agreement with her neighbour.

She told CTV News London she had complained to city hall three times in the past four days about the encampment, as she was worried a fire could occur and spread to her home.

“The city hall should have spoken with the owners of that business and say, ‘No, she cannot be there.’”

But Oliver and Pasch said compassion for someone experiencing homelessness comes first.

Micheal Pasch and Richard Oliver, co-owners of Cabinetmart in London, Ont., are seen on Nov. 28, 2023. (Sean Irvine/CTV News London) “You just keep hearing it is getting worse and worse. I don’t know what people are going to do. It’s got to be freezing sitting out here,” Pasch said.

A London fire official told CTV News London that balancing the need for warmth with fire safety is an ongoing challenge for the department.

His comments come just hours after firefighters attended a blaze at an encampment alongside railway tracks near Sarnia and Wonderland roads. There were no injuries. 

Just seven months ago, Olivia Clark died after a tarp caught fire in a camp she was sleeping in along Dundas Street East.

Back on Little Grey Street, the woman’s injuries are said to be non-life threatening.

“Hopefully, it is not too bad. We don’t know. Her whole life is in this stuff, [her belongings] are gone now,” said Pasch.

Still, for the safety of those experiencing homelessness and their business, Pasch and Oliver have decided not to permit tents in the future. 

A coat with burn marks on its arm rests within the fire scene in the area of Little Grey Street near Rectory Street in London, Ont. on Nov. 28, 2023. (Sean Irvine/CTV News London)

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