Alice Street fire destroys two buildings

Fire ripped through two buildings at the corner of Alice St. and First St. East on Wednesday Oct. 1, 2014. In this photo, the building on Alice St. starts to collapse. Click to enlarge. (Cornwall Newswatch)

CORNWALL, Ont. – Cornwall’s fire prevention officer will start his investigation at daybreak, combing through what’s left of a massive fire at the corner of Alice Street and First Street East.

The fire started around 7:15 p.m. last night in the back garage area of 362-363 Alice Street. If the location sounds familiar, it’s the same place where skeletal remains were found in January, 2013. The flames quickly spread to the neighbouring duplex at 851 First Street East. A witness tells Cornwall Newswatch one man had to be pulled from one of the homes by other citizens.

A large crowd gathered on many of the street corners around Alice and First and police had to move them back and cordon off a one block area. Loud popping sounds – possibly ammunition – could be heard inside the burning buildings. Neighbouring homes were quickly evacuated as a precaution and the power was cut to the area but has since been restored.

Cornwall Fire Department Captain Andy Van Veen says there were about 20 firefighters on scene as well as Fire Chief Richard McCullough. As for equipment, there were five trucks – two aerial units and three pumpers – working on the blaze.

“Exposures were the challenge. Everything’s pretty tight in here…buildings are close together…so when one building is pretty much lost we are protecting the buildings around and it worked out quite well. Everything that could be saved was saved so, all in all, we did everything we could,” said Van Veen.

At one point, one of the aerial ladders became stuck, leaving a firefighter in a basket high above the towering flames. A mechanic was brought in and was able to repair the ladder and bring the firefighter back down safely. The fire was finally put out just after 11 p.m.

It’s believed no one was injured. A person was taken away on a stretcher however Van Veen couldn’t say whether it was related to the incident.

The Cornwall Branch of the Canadian Red Cross was on scene helping people and the Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services unit also provided food and drink to the emergency workers.

The scene was roped off with yellow and red police and fire tape overnight. The section around Alice and First Streets was closed to traffic.

Below is a picture gallery from the fire. Click each picture to enlarge.

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