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.