CORNWALL, Ontario – When Cornwall Fire Service Platoon Chief Luc Richer walked outside of the fire department after getting the initial call on Thursday, July 26 in 2018, he could see excessive amounts of smoke billowing into the air above our city.
He knew the fire was large from outside of the station so made a call for a second alarm.
What has been recognized as the biggest fire in Cornwall in over 40 years occurred one year ago from today. Chief Richer, now retired, will always remember the dramatic day as it coincidentally falls on his birthday.
By the time Chief Richer and his team arrived close to the scene of the fire on Montreal Rd. and Alice St. at around 6:30 p.m., all he could see was a large orange ball and he could feel the extreme heat, the fire fully involved. He promptly called dispatch to signal a general alarm, alerting all staff to come join in the efforts to contain the blaze.
Once crew members were as close to the blaze as possible, they were quickly preoccupied with placing trucks at strategic locations in attempt to shield the heat and flames from reaching other buildings. A total of seven buildings were damaged by the heat and three buildings were completely destroyed, including two apartment buildings and Poirier Furniutre, which has since relocated.
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Over 40 workers were eventually on scene, where they remained all night, working on containing the blaze for several hours and then staying to ensure no hot spots reignited. It has been reported that 30 minutes after the blaze started, one residential building collapsed.
“I was there (at Cornwall Fire Services) for over 30 years and I had never seen anything like that…it was the worst I had ever seen…just a big ball of flame, it was crazy,” said Chief Richer, still in awe. Richer said that due to safety concerns, crews had to tear down the three destroyed buildings promptly.
The Canadian Red Cross reported that it relocated 31 residents for up to 72 hours after the blaze. Seaway News reached out to the Red Cross for an update on any of the displaced locals on Monday, July 22 but has not received a comment.
One day after the blaze, CPS deemed it as suspicious.
“The Cornwall Fire Department has deemed the fire to be suspicious in nature and as such, the Cornwall Community Police Service will now be taking the lead,” CPS wrote in a statement to media. “Members of the Criminal Investigations Division and Forensic Identification Unit are on scene conducting an investigation…”
One year later, CPS Communication Officer Stephanie MacRae could confirm that the investigation is still ongoing.