UPDATE: Fire out, power restored to east-end neighbourhood

CORNWALL, Ontario – A massive fire burned in the city’s east end Wednesday night, with witnesses saying a person had to be pulled from a dwelling caught in the blaze.

Two homes at the corner of First Street East and Alice Street were destroyed amidst towering flames.

Witnesses at the scene said no one was injured, but emergency officials have not been able to confirm the status of the occupants of the home, or nearby residents.

Thick acrid smoke filled the neighbourhood and street corners were filled with onlookers, who witnessed chaos in the early going.

“(My son) and I were walking up the street and smelled smoke, then I heard sirens in the distance,” said well-known local photographer Jason McNamara. “We ran down the street a bit and saw neighbours forcing a man out of one of the homes that was on fire.

“I heard them tell the police that he wouldn’t leave because he didn’t have his shoes. Thankfully, they got him out. Seconds later the flames were out of control.”

Firefighters were battling an intense blaze that was finally extinguished at around 11 p.m.

Foam was used to help quell the flames. So much was used that the thick substance was flowing down sidewalks and pooling in the street.

Louise Leblanc, who lives in the neighbourhood, said the fire was intense.

“It smells, there’s lots of smoke and the flames are very high,” she said. “The front part of the house fell in while I was there.”

Cornwall police Sgt. Scott Coulter said there had been no reports of injuries, but cautioned it was too early to completely rule anything out.

“It’s still a working fire,” he said, adding police have closed down traffic to a significant portion of the area around the fire.

Motorists and pedestrians are encouraged to remain outside a one-block radius surrounding the First and Alice streets area.

The Salvation Army was called in by the Cornwall Fire Department. The local charity dished out hot coffee and sandwiches to residents and emergency personnel.

More to come.

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