Leduc St. fire house demolished
In the end, it took about 10 hours to demolish the charred remains of a house at the centre of an almost 20-month long controversy in Saint-Lazare.
Allan Bassenden’s family home, located on Leduc St., was completely destroyed in a March 22, 2011 fire.
Since that day, he and his family have lived in a trailer behind the burned remains.
Bassenden’s wife, Joni Malley, has suffered emotional distress from having to look at her one-time family home every day.
But she doesn’t have to look at it anymore.
A good samaritan in the form of a local businessman stepped up in a big way last week and removed the debris free of charge.
Dean Trineer, a Saint-Lazare resident and owner of Tri-Tool, a tool and equipment rental centre that has operated in the town for almost 15 years, said he just felt helping the family was the right thing to do.
And though Tri-Tool has sponsored many community groups over the years, this is the first time Trineer has undertaken such a hands-on project.
“I kept driving by (the burned house) and saw nothing was being done... I just wanted to give him a hand when I saw that nobody else was helping,” Trineer said, adding Bassenden had been a loyal customer of his for more than 10 years.
Tri-Tool had offered to remove the debris almost 10 months ago, but Bassenden and the Town of Saint-Lazare were in a legal tussle over the debris’s removal, as well as the fact the family has been living on the property since the fire in an older model mobile home. The Town says the living arrangement contravenes a municipal by-law.
Earlier this year, the municipality offered to pay the upfront cost of having the debris removed if Bassenden agreed to pay the cost back in installments.
But negotiations stalled months ago when Bassenden balked at a $13,500 price quote for the job. He decried the fact the Town only got one quote, and one he felt was too high.
A deal recently reached between Bassenden and the Town allowed Tri-Tool to remove the debris free of charge if Bassenden provided containers and had the debris hauled away.
Tri-Tool’s donation means Bassenden will end up paying less than a quarter of the Town’s quoted price for the removal.
And while he could not comment on the specifics of the deal that saw the municipality issue Bassenden the needed removal permit, Mayor Robert Grimaudo said last week he was happy the charred remains would be gone.
Tri-Tool set up security fences around the Leduc St. property Thursday afternoon then brought in a crane to remove the chimney, which Trineer said was the most dangerous part of the job because its proximity to a Hydro line. He was back on the job at 8 a.m. the next morning. By 3 p.m. Friday, all that remained was the slab on which the house sat, and the concrete steps that once led to the front entrance.
Bassenden’s daughter, Nathalie Gagnon, 33, who lived in the home with her 14-year-old daughter, both of whom also now live in the trailer, said it was a bittersweet day.
“I’m happy and sad that (the house) is going down,” she said.
Calling it “one less thing they have to worry about,” Trineer said he hopes the family can begin to move forward.
“Sometimes when you help someone, they help themselves, too,” he said.
More battles to come
Bassenden will be back in court in June to defend himself against the Town’s by-law forbidding them to live in the trailer on their property.
He says the family of four have nowhere else to go. And with only Malley providing an income, they live hand to mouth.
Having recently recovered from health issues, Bassenden is ready to find work doing anything possible to help support his family. He’s encouraging his daughter to do the same.
He will also face off in court against his former insurance provider, Belairdirect. The company has allegedly refused to pay a fire claim, stating they believe Bassenden was operating an undeclared auto repair business out of his garage. Bassenden disputes the claim. He is suing for $800,000, plus costs and emotional distress. The case will go to court in May, 2014.