Rick Hatt lost nearly $75,000 worth of merchandise and has no insurance to fall back on, but he’s relieved knowing he’s not a police suspect in a suspicious fire that destroyed five Bridgewater businesses, including his own.
But Bridgewater police have confirmed that the blaze that gutted the once historic King Street building late Sunday night, started in his business – Big Daddy’s Wholesale.
Hatt said Thursday he was interviewed by Bridgewater Police after the fire but was never informed by the department or the provincial fire marshal, who is also part of the investigation, that the blaze started in his business.
“I’ve heard the rumours, that I may have started the fire, but I’m not going to be part of the rumour mill,” said Hatt. “ But of course it bothered me. I can’t imagine how it would have started. I’ve played the scenario over in my head a thousand times since the fire happened. There’s really nothing in there that would have sparked a fire of that magnitude.”
Hatt said he has a few of ideas to explain what may have caused the fire.
“Well, for starters, it’s a 150-year-old building and there was an old furnace located right above my business. But, I’m just speculating and adding to the rumour mill, and I don’t like doing that.”
The owner of the building, Calgary-based lawyer Gerald Masuch, said in an email Thursday that he was not prepared to comment on the matter at this time.
Hatt, who also operated a floor cleaning business, said he was in the building Sunday evening to pick up cleaning supplies for a job in Liverpool but had left at about 6 p.m.
Roughly four hours later, at about 10:30 p.m., fire crews from across the South Shore region arrived on scene to combat a fire of historic proportions.
When he left the building he noticed nothing out of the ordinary, he said.
“Everything seemed fine. I locked the door, checked the door knob twice to make sure it was locked, and away I go.
“I got a text at about 10:30 telling me my store was on fire and from that point on the texts were coming steadily. I came back and it was fully engulfed.”
Police continue to deem the fire suspicious and are treating the location as a crime scene.
Scott Feener, deputy chief of Bridgewater Police, confirmed that Hatt was interviewed by police and isn’t considered a suspect.
On Wednesday evening, the building was torn down, following an order by the provincial fire marshal who deemed the structure unsafe for entry.
The police are now attempting to piece together a timeline of events by zeroing in on a list of witnesses and video footage of the scene captured by downtown surveillance cameras. But Feener stopped short of saying that it contained evidence of suspicious activity before, during or after the fire.
“We’ve identified some possible people that were in the area and were able to speak to them,” said Feener. “It’s certainly given us a better timeline of what happened in the downtown that night. But it is still a suspicious fire until we determine otherwise.
Like many Bridgewater residents, Hatt hopes the investigation will bring a resolution to what has been a traumatic ordeal for many. At the time of the fire, he had been at the location for only twoand- a-half-months. He’s lost anywhere between $50,000 to $75,000 worth of merchandise, he said.
“That’s a lot of money that I won’t get back,” said Hatt. “I’m hoping that the fire officials would find a cause by now but I haven’t heard that they have at this point. We’ll all just have to wait.”