Fire Marshal to probe massive Cornwall blaze

In this supplied photo, balls of orange flame billow from an apartment complex on the corner of Montreal Road and Alice Street on Thursday, July 26, 2018. Fire Chief Pierre Voisine says the "somewhat abnormal" fire will be investigated by the Ontario Fire Marshal. (Paul Coleman via Newswatch Group)

CORNWALL – Investigators from the Ontario Fire Marshal (OFM) will be on ground today (Friday) looking into the cause of last night’s massive blaze in the eastern section of Le Village.

Motorists will also find a section of Montreal Road closed this morning (Friday) from McConnell Avenue to Belmont Street.

The fire started at an eight-plex apartment building at 701 Montreal Road around 6:40 p.m., on the southeast corner of Montreal Road and Alice Street. Raging balls of flame quickly spread to two neighbouring buildings – an apartment building on Alice Street and Poirier Furniture at 711 Montreal Road.

This is not the first time there’s been a fire at 701 Montreal Road. Firefighters put one out in August 2016.

In an interview with Cornwall Newswatch early Friday morning, Fire Chief Pierre Voisine said firefighters arrived on the scene within four minutes where the fire was already fully involved and the flames had jumped to the other buildings.

The heat from the fire was so intense it melted the siding on two buildings across the street.

Voisine called the characteristics of this fire “somewhat abnormal” – one of two reasons why the OFM will be looking into the case. The other reason is due to the amount of the loss. An OFM investigation is triggered when damage is over $1 million.

The heat from a fire at an apartment complex at 701 Montreal Road on Thursday, July 26, 2018 was hot enough to melt the siding on two buildings across the street. The Ontario Fire Marshal will be investigating. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

Voisine said some tenants were displaced and were temporary housed at the east end police station. They were also being helped by the Red Cross.

Fortunately, there were no injuries.

The fire department had 27 firefighters called in, in addition to the 10 firefighters who initially responded. There were also two fire prevention officers, one mechanic and Voisine on scene.

The chief said his crews did a “fantastic job” under the circumstances and Platoon Chief Luc Richer did a “super human job” of leading the massive undertaking. Coincidentally, it was also Richer’s birthday.

A backhoe was brought in late Thursday night and crews worked through the overnight hours tearing down the three buildings and moving the rubble around while water from two aerial fire trucks doused the remains to make sure all the hot spots were out.

The Cornwall Command Center was set up at the scene and Voisine said they expect to be there for “a few days,” because of the investigation and the amount of cleanup involved.

Part of one of the buildings that collapsed fell into Montreal Road.

Click here to see more pictures and details from our Thursday night coverage.