Fire damages three St. Felix Street homes; investigation underway

Flames curl out from under the balcony of a two-storey duplex at 316 St. Felix Street in Cornwall, Ont. Wednesday, May 17, 2017. A joint police and fire investigation is underway. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL — A joint Cornwall police and fire department investigation is underway into a rapidly-moving fire, which torched the front of a duplex and damaged two neighbouring homes Wednesday afternoon.

Emergency services were called to the 300 block of St. Felix Street just after 1:30 p.m.

“The man set a bin on fire and it caught the house because he has a bunch of other crap in his yard. It was like a bin of newspapers and stuff like that,” neighbour Selina Rafter-Leblanc told Cornwall Newswatch.

“He’s had gas and everything else in that yard so it’s not a surprise the rest of the house caught (fire),” Rafter-Leblanc said.

She believed everyone got out of the building but the tenants on the second floor of 316 St. Felix Street may have lost some family pets to the flames.

“No injuries but there were pets involved, quite a few,” Acting Platoon Chief Jody Dewar told CNW. “The structure upstairs isn’t very safe at this point so we’re not going in there to check it. But the guys in there, they did see a few fatalities of pets,” Dewar said.

Dewar said the fire is believed to have started outside around the front porch area but that still has to be confirmed in their joint investigation with police.

“When we got here, the whole front (of the building) was involved (316 St. Felix), the truck (GMC pickup in the driveway) was involved and structures on the side (318 and 314 St. Felix) were hot, plus there’s a power line that let go and was arcing in front of the building,” Dewar said.

A stiff wind – 35 kilometers an hour gusting to 65 kilometers an hour – was fanning the flames, adding to the difficulty for firefighters.

“It went from a small fire in the front yard to a full-blown structure fire in the matter of 20 seconds.”

“The guys did a good job. Both side buildings were damaged but it could have been a lot worse,” Dewar said.

The main duplex (316) has extensive fire and water damage, while there’s damage in the attics of both the neighbouring buildings and the front porch on one home (318 St. Felix).

Police were on scene for traffic control and the secure the scene while paramedics were on standby as a precaution.

The Canadian Red Cross was also on scene to help displaced residents find a place to stay.

Three homes are damaged by fire on St. Felix Street in Cornwall, Ont. Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Witnesses say a man was burning trash in the front yard when the fire quickly got out of control. A joint police and fire investigation is underway. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)
Three homes are damaged by fire on St. Felix Street in Cornwall, Ont. Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Witnesses say a man was burning trash in the front yard when the fire quickly got out of control. A joint police and fire investigation is underway. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)
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