Grimsby downtown devastated by fire
The Ontario Fire Marshal’s office has begun sifting through the ashes of a fire that devastated a portion of Grimsby’s downtown core.
An investigator was on scene Friday morning to probe the aftermath of the fire that destroyed three businesses and apartment units Thursday afternoon.
Preliminary damage estimates are about $2 million, said Kevin Pahor, an investigator with the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office.
Pahor said the investigation is in its preliminary stages, and the cause is undetermined, although a point of origin has been identified as behind the Dressing Room salon.
“The fire originated on the back end of the property in the porch area. We are still digging through and trying to find a cause,” Pahor said Friday afternoon.
“The investigation is just getting underway.”
The fire, he said, is “not suspicious at this point” and noted there were some combustibles back there, including a propane tank for a barbecue. He had anticipated the investigation to last at least most of Friday.
“Right now, I can’t comment on any factors for cause. We are still in the preliminary stages.”
Pahor said the approximate $2million damage estimate was based on insurance adjusters. That number, he said, is just for the properties affected by the fire and not any nearby properties that may have suffered any smoke damage.
The upper floors are destroyed, while there are likely some items on the lower floors that may be salvageable — depending on whether there was any water damage, he said.
As for the future of the historic, century-old buildings, engineers are looking at whether or not the structures will have to come down.
Pahor said the fire was able to spread quickly and caused extensive damage due to the old balloonframe construction style, which leaves gaps from the floor to the roof.
As well, Grimsby Fire Chief Michael Cain noted a sprinkler system wasn’t in place.
The extent of the damage and the costs will far exceed what it would have cost to install sprinklers in the building, Cain said.
“Had these buildings been sprinklered, we wouldn’t be faced with what we’re faced with today.”
Cain said it’s too early in the investigation to know what role smoke alarms, or the lack thereof, played.
Once firefighters contained the fire Thursday night, there was a little smouldering overnight in a rear part of the units. “They did a great job knocking it down. They just dumped water on it, and it choked anything out,” Cain said.
The fire didn’t breach the post office, one of the major concerns on Thursday night. The post office did, however, take on water in the basement. Restoration crews have been on-site to clean up the post office.
Cain estimated about 55 firefighters were on scene, switching on and off with each other in the near 30 C weather.
He thanked the agencies that helped with the response, including firefighters from Grimsby, West Lincoln and Lincoln, as well as Niagara Regional Police and EMS.
The town set up a reception area at the Peach King Centre for families displaced by the blaze.
The Red Cross and social services are working to provide accommodations for those affected.
The fire marshal is continuing an investigation into a fire that did heavy damage to several units downtown.