TRURO – The fire that destroyed the east end of the A. J. Walker building on Prince Street last week started by accident, according to an investigation conducted by the Truro Fire Service.
© Jocelyn Turner - Truro Daily News
The burned and shredded remains of what was the east side of the A.J. Walker building on Prince Street still draws attention from passing motorists and walkers as they go about their daily business on Monday morning.
The 120 year-old downtown landmark, formerly a hardware store, was partially destroyed by a fire that began early Thursday afternoon. From the afternoon until late Thursday evening, the downtown area was filled with thick, heavy smoke.
As of early Monday morning, Truro Fire Service said the cause of the fire is still under investigation.
“Based on the damage in the building, based on interviews with the building owner and business owners, as well as photos that we had taken and citizens had given us early in our arrival, we have deemed the fire accidental,” said Ryan Thibeau, the Truro Fire Service inspector.
The investigation into Thursday’s fire was completed Saturday night and, according to Thibeau, having an excavator come in Thursday night, just hours after the fire started around 1:30 p.m., destroyed some of the fire patterns and evidence inside the building.
“Because of the areas we were able to reconstruct, it’s determined there was a failure within the solid fuel heating system, but we can’t pinpoint exactly where or with what,” he said.
Firefighters from the Truro department responded Thursday afternoon to the blaze. When they arrived, smoke was filling a discount store attached to the east end of the original Walker’s brick building. Flames were also shooting out the back of the discount store.
Other businesses inside the main building were evacuated and passersby stopping to watch were moved out of the block. Crews from Nova Scotia Power arrived later to turn off power to the area.
Mutual aid came from Salmon River, Bible Hill, Hilden and Cobequid District, with a number of other departments on standby.
Firefighters were able to contain the majority of the fire to the east end portion of the building, however the rest of the building sustained smoke and water damage. By late afternoon, orange flames had burned through an exterior wall from floor to ceiling on the first floor.
The A. J. Walker’s building has been a downtown core landmark for more than 120 years, and in the Legge family since 1939. Until March of last year, the building was home to a hardware store, operated by Warren Legge.
Its history began in 1890 when A.J. Walker opened a hardware store on the site. During the 1920s, the company suffered some loss due to fire, but the building was saved. Another fire ran through the building in 1948, however the structure was not destroyed.