Busi­ness de­stroyed by fire

Own­ers of South River com­pany vow to re­open as soon as pos­si­ble


Po­lice say the spon­ta­neous com­bus­tion of oily rags that had been dis­carded into a trash can is the likely cause of a dev­as­tat­ing fire that flat­tened a slate prod­uct man­u­fac­tur­ing busi­ness in South River.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors were also con­sid­er­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of an elec­tri­cal short on the fac­tory floor work­ing area, but Sgt. Marc Coulombe of the Trin­ity-Con­cep­tion District said the “exother­mic ig­ni­tion” of the rags is the most prob­a­ble cause.

Fire­fight­ers were called to Im­ages In Slate on Spring­field Road in South River at about 5 p.m. on Tues­day, April 5. Em­ploy­ees had left the build­ing at about 4:30 p.m.

By the time emer­gency per­son­nel ar­rived at the scene, smoke was bil­low­ing from the eaves and the doors.

Vol­un­teers from the Bay de Grave fire brigade en­tered the build­ing in an at­tempt to knock down the blaze, but were ham­pered by the heavy smoke, lim­ited vis­i­bil­ity and pal­lets of slate and other ma­chin­ery that ob­structed their move­ment, said Chief Jeremy Hall.

Hall said the first truck was on the scene about six min­utes af­ter the emer­gency call came in.

Be­fore long, 20 fire­fight­ers from the Bay de Grave and Bri­gus de­part­ments, op­er­at­ing three pumper trucks, were pour­ing wa­ter into the burn­ing build­ing.

Ef­forts to com­bat the fire were ham­pered by a lack of wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture in that area of the town. Pumper trucks were forced to race back and forth to a fire hy­drant about a kilo­me­tre away to fill up their tanks.

There was also a quan­tity of spe­cial­ized chem­i­cals in the build­ing, and po­lice kept on­look­ers well back be­cause of fears about toxic fumes.

By Wed­nes­day morn­ing, the 6,500 square foot build­ing was re­duced to a pile of scorched rub­ble.

“It’s a to­tal loss,” com­pany vice-pres­i­dent and part-owner Chris Hur­ley told The Com­pass as he watched the build­ing burn on Tues­day evening.

It’s a dev­as­tat­ing set­back, but Hur­ley said the com­pany will re­bound as soon as pos­si­ble.

“ We have to get back into pro­duc­tion as fast as pos­si­ble be­cause we have na­tional cus­tomers such as Home De­pot Canada and Lowe’s Canada that carry our prod­ucts. We have to make some fast de­ci­sions on how to get back up and run­ning,” Hur­ley said.

Hur­ley said the com­pany has 10 full-time em­ploy­ees. It spe­cial­izes in cus­tom slate signs and a host of other prod­ucts, and has been in op­er­a­tion for about 15 years.

He said the com­pany car­ried in­surance, and es­ti­mated the loss as “many hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars.”

An eight-unit apart­ment build­ing lo­cated close by was un­touched by the blaze. The build­ing’s owner, Phil Chay­tor, praised the fire­fight­ers for keep­ing the fire from spread­ing.

A pumper truck (cen­tre) re­turns to the fire scene in South River af­ter fill­ing its tank at a nearby hy­drant.

A dense smoke fills the air as fire­fight­ers com­bat a fire in South River on April 5.

Fire­fight­ers di­rect wa­ter onto a struc­ture fire in South River on April 5.

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