Police and firefighters were still at the scene of a fire on Townline Road Wednesday morning, some of whom had been there since 2:30 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, says Fire Chief Nick Ruller.
Firefighters will remain on scene for several days, addressing minor hot spots.
Although the fire call came in at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday for an empty chicken barn, Ruller could see billowing black smoke from the Virgil fire station, and upgraded the call.
With no fire hydrants nearby, Ruller said, firefighters trucked in water, and the Thorold Fire Department assisted with two tankers.
About 60 local firefighters from all five stations, along with almost all the town apparatus, including five pumpers, two aerial ladders, and four tankers, were called in to help get the fire under control.
Ruller says the team worked well together, in spite of many challenges, including the extreme cold weather and the heavy black smoke.
While it seemed they were keeping the fire contained early on, it became increasingly difficult as the fire spread, due to the large amount of material on the site, said Ruller.
In addition to a two-storey furniture store on the property, two 500-foot chicken barns had been converted to one-storey storage units, said Ruller. Also on-site were some plastic hoop houses, used for storage as well.
While the units in the chicken barns were divided, the ceilings were just plywood, with an empty space between that and the tin roof, allowing the fire to quickly spread, and making it difficult for firefighters to get it under control.
A large number of people were on the scene, also causing some concern. Many of them were tenants, with boats, racing cars, stock cars and other vehicles parked on the property, along with tools for repairs, he said.
Colton Rumsey was one of those on the site, and spoke to Mike Balsom, who was there taking photos for The Local. “I came down here when the fire was already going, and cleaned out our shop, the end unit. It’s just a hobby shop. We know there’s a fire that started somewhere and spread, and they can’t seem to contain it. There’s about 35 units here, mostly hobby guys, some dirt track racers,” Rumsey said.
Neilson Thai was inside one of the units when the fire broke out. “I was working on my car in unit 4, my personal storage garage. I was inside and the power went out. I went outside to check and I saw the smoke and the firefighters there.” He said he believed, the fire started in one of the storage units, “but I have no idea what’s in that shop,” he told Balsom.
“Maintaining the safety of lives remained our number one priority, and while we empathize with the devastating loss to the tenants and property owners, we are pleased to report that there were no serious injuries,” said Ruller.
He said Tuesday the damage total would be high, considering the items stored on-site. An investigation into the original cause and circumstances around the fire was being launched Wednesday, and the damage was estimated at $2.5 million.
The Ministry of Environment was called in to assist, said a town news release Wednesday, “and there is currently no reasonable concern for the health and safety of those in the surrounding area. Town operations staff remain on scene to manage water run-off.”