Theatre op­er­ated for 32 years

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Mean­while, Oates said ev­ery­thing was fine when they left the the­atre build­ing around 10:30 p.m. on Oct. 24, about half-an-hour af­ter the movie “The Help” ended.

About 11:15 p.m. Oates re­called, “a friend called me to ask me if I knew the the­atre was on fire.”

About 20 to 25 of the the­atre’s 200 seats had been filled that night.

The blaze broke out in an up­stairs sec­tion of the east end of the struc­ture. The area houses the pro­jec­tion, util­ity and elec­tri­cal rooms, of­fice and stor­age area, which were all com­pletely de­stroyed.

Oates said the main the­atre, which in­cludes the seat­ing area, stage and screen, all sus­tained heavy smoke and wa­ter dam­age.

“The build­ing had three- phase wiring, which is all gone, along with the seats, screen and all my equip­ment is gone,” he noted.

While the dam­age is ex­ten­sive, Oates doesn’t be­lieve the build­ing has been de­stroyed be­yond re­pair.

“I was only in there for about hal­fan- hour, but, in my opin­ion, the build­ing it­self is sal­vage­able.”

He cred­its the work of the Car­bon­ear Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment in sav­ing the build­ing from com­plete de­struc­tion.

In­surance was car­ried, but Oates said it’s too early to es­ti­mate his loss, ex­cept to say: “It’s go­ing to take a lot of money to re­place it — all is left is the four walls and the floor. So ev­ery­thing will have to be gut­ted out and cleaned up.”

Sound struc­ture

The 32- year- old build­ing is a sound struc­ture, he noted — some­thing mem­bers of the Car­bon­ear Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment found out when their chop saw struck con­crete block in an at­tempt to cut a test hole through an ex­te­rior wall.

Fire Chief Ed Ka­vanagh said “the fact it was a con­crete block build­ing with metal sid­ing and a steel roof made it dif­fi­cult for fire­fight­ers to get at the fire trapped in­side the walls and dou­ble ceil­ings.”

About 29 mem­bers of the brigade bat­tled the stub­born blaze through­out the night and into the next day.

Ka­vanagh said the up­stairs was “fully en­gulfed” when they ar­rived shortly af­ter 11 p.m.

“It didn’t take long to knock down the main fire,” Ka­vanagh noted, but the fire trapped in­side the walls and dou­ble ceil­ing smoul­dered through­out the night.

At 7 o’clock the next morn­ing, an hour af­ter fire­fight­ers had left the scene, they had to re­turn to take care of an­other flare-up.

Ae­rial lad­der passes test

The in­ci­dent marked the first time the de­part­ment got a chance to test out its new 100- foot aerial lad­der truck at a real fire.

By ex­tend­ing the lad­der in over the roof, the de­vice al­lowed fir­e­fit­ghters to spray wa­ter from the noz­zle at the end of the lad­der di­rectly onto the roof. It also al­lowed fire­fight­ers to ac­cess the roof di­rectly and safely from the lad­der.

“It per­formed as it was sup­posed to and lived up to its ex­pec­ta­tions,” the fire chief re­ported. “It ’ s a hel l of a lot more safe, thought it’s too bad some­body had

to loose their busi­ness.”

Rise from ashes

The cin­ema build­ing has been up for sale for over two years, and Keith Oates con­firmed it is still on the mar­ket.

How­ever, he said: “I’d like to get it go­ing again as a cin­ema. It was my liveli­hood, all I done all my life.”

Oates was only 14 years old when he started work­ing with his fa­ther, Tom, who op­er­ated a cin­ema in the old Orange Hall in the 1970s with pro- jec­tion equip­ment pur­chased from the old Bond Theatre. After a year, they moved back to the Bond, which was even­tu­ally closed up by the fire de­part­ment.

The cur­rent build­ing was con­structed in 1979. Oates re­calls it opened on Dec. 5 of that year with a screen­ing of Rocky II — the first of more than 2,000 dif­fer­ent films movie­go­ers have viewed there over the past 32 years.

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