BLAZE IN GRIMSBY:
Cause probed after fire rips through downtown, forces evacuation and damages buildings
Downtown Grimsby had to be evacuated after a fire ripped through a building and took more than five hours to get under control.
The Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal has been asked to help the Grimsby fire department investigate the cause of the Thursday afternoon fire, the town said in a press release late Thursday.
“There are no reports of injuries at this time.”
The blaze seemed controllable at first but proved stubborn and eventually spread, flooding the downtown with clouds of smoke.
Grimsby, Lincoln and West Lincoln fire crews all attended the scene of the blaze at the corner of Main Street East and Elm Street. Damage is not yet known.
At around 1:30 p.m. those working inside the hair salon at the corner were advised that the back porch was on fire.
“Someone knocked at the back door,” said Sarah Wrabiutza, who works at the Dressing Room salon.
Crews worked diligently to contain the fire, but it spread to the building next door.
Lisa Allsop, a co-owner of the yoga studio, stood back and watched her entire studio burn.
At that point, her building looked as though it was completely unaffected. Things got worse, however, as the hours passed.
Allsop’s business partner, Claire Mathews, said she’s glad nobody was hurt, and really at the end of the day, it’s only material items.
“Honestly, a couple hours ago, I thought we might have some smoke damage. Now I’m not even sure if we’re going to have a building tomorrow,” she said. “Now we’re watching our business burn to the ground.”
As smoke billowed from the building it enveloped the downtown, where the Grimsby Farmers’ market was being held.
“We were made aware of the fire,” said Michelle Seaborn, a Grimsby alderman who runs the market. “We immediately went into an emergency situation.”
At around the same time, police circulated around downtown businesses and told occupants to evacuate the buildings.
At 8:45 p.m., the town issued a press release noting the fire had caused “extensive damage to a number of businesses and apartments.”
“The buildings damaged by the fire include a number of historic century-old commercial buildings,” the release added.
The town said roads around the fire could be close into Friday or longer. A meeting for businesses and tenants is being planned for the town hall, also on Friday.
Firefighters utilized several aerial trucks to battle the blaze, working to try and stop the fire from spreading to neighbouring businesses, including the post office.
After a couple hours, the fire started to take a turn, with flames spreading across the rooftops.
The escalating situation prompted police to order the evacuation and closure of all businesses on Main Street.
Other closures include the Grimsby Library and Art Gallery, which said it was closing at 6 p.m. due to air quality concerns.
At times, the streets surrounding the fire were filled with thick black smoke. At one point, the roof of the yoga studio collapsed.
The community came out in support of the firefighters, with several local businesses, including pizza and coffee shops and grocery stores all providing refreshments.
Around 7:40 p.m., Niagara Region said the fire had been contained.
The Peach King Centre at 162 Livingston Ave. has been set up as a reception centre for those affected by the fire.
Alderman Nick DiFlavio said hotels are also being arranged for those who have been displaced.
Downtown Grimsby had to be evacuated after a fire tore through a building and eventually spread, flooding nearby streets with thick smoke.