STEWIACKE – The Town of Stewiacke has lost another building.
A vacant store in the centre of the town was destroyed by fire on Monday morning. The cause is under investigation.
“When we arrived, firefighters encountered heavy smoke conditions from a fully involved fired,” said Stewiacke and District Volunteer Fire Brigade Chief Brent Murdock more than three hours after the fire was called in. “It started on the main floor and made its way to the second.”
The fire at the former convenience store belonging to the Hanna family was only visible from the outside as heavy smoke. Firefighters were called to the structure fire at about 6 a.m.
Tim MacNeil, the deputy chief from Lantz who also teaches Rapid Intervention Team (RIT) training, said a mayday call was placed very early once firefighters arrived.
“They encountered a heavy change in conditions. Our RIT from Lantz was in place and met the team of three firefighters at the door. Of the team of three, two were transported to hospital for mild smoke inhalation,” he said, on behalf of Murdock when the fire was still active.
When the fire was under control, Murdock confirmed both firefighters had been released from hospital.
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Pam Osborne said she had fond memories of the former variety store, which, when she was younger, was under different ownership.
“For me, it’s very disheartening,” said the town councillor. “I grew up next door to that store when it used to be Ron Ellis & Variety Store, and I have lots of childhood memories from in there.”
She had been speaking to the owner of the store while watching firefighters early in the morning, and said the owner was upset.
“The owner is just in tears,” she said. “It’s a sin. It’s very disheartening for the town, for the residents and for council.”
The owner of the store declined to comment on the situation.
With this being the fifth major commercial fire in the town in less than three years, Osborne said there has been one positive aspect.
“We are very lucky in that no one has been hurt. As my parents always said, material things can be replaced but lives can’t.”
The fire chief said the store and the upstairs apartments had been vacant for a number of months. There was still power to the building, which has a liquor establishment adjoining.
“It’s mostly smoke damage next door,” said Murdock. “But we haven’t gone in there yet so we don’t know the extent of the damage.”
In regards to the number of fires the town has seen, which included a laundromat and apartments next door to the store, Murdock said he knows some residents may have concerns.
“Some of those have been accidents, but I’m sure there’s concerns. But this is still under investigation and we have been in contact with the fire marshal’s office.”
He said it could be Tuesday when the fire marshal concludes the investigation, and hopefully a cause will be determined.
Firefighters from Brookfield, Hilden, Cobequid, Milford, Lantz, Enfield, Shubenacadie and Dutch Settlement in Halifax Regional Municipality responded with mutual aid. Firefighters from Truro were on standby in Hilden, while Upper Stewiacke was in place at the Brookfield department. Elmsdale was also on standby.