$500,000 fire in downtown building

Last Tuesday afternoon’s fire in the building at 217 Main Street caused devastating property damage.
First arriving crews confirmed that smoke was visible from a second storey window as well as the eaves and soffit above the second floor.
Investigators from Norfolk County Fire Department say “the fire was caused by carelessly discarded smoker’s materials.”
Damage is estimated at over $500,000. The building was insured, however; some of the tenants in the upper apartments did not have insurance for their belongings.
The building housed two businesses – Coldwell Banker Coastline Realty and Darbishire Cabinets – and upper apartments
Gail Simmons, owner of Coldwell Banker Coastline Realty, said that when the building’s interconnected smoke alarms went off she didn’t initially react or feel like there was any real danger as false alarms had occurred previously.
When the alarms didn’t stop, she realized this was the real deal and immediately thought about who else was in the building and how she could make sure they were aware of the situation and could get to a safe place.
“We got out onto the street, and I thought, ‘who is in there?’ The side door was locked so we couldn’t get upstairs,” she said, noting she was aware of two people who resided in the upper units. Before long the door was unlocked and everyone made it out safely, she said.
In the aftermath, she shared that all local real estate offices – big and small – offered them a space to continue running their business. Numerous other businesses, friends and acquaintances in the area have offered to lend a hand as well. Mrs. Simmons is so thankful to the community for their generosity and support.
Until a new home for the real estate office is set up, they will be operating as usual in Simcoe at Coldwell Banker Action Plus Realty. Thankfully, before exiting the building, she had the presence of mind to get the main computer tower that contained all the business’s files which allowed the business to be up and running the next day.
“I want to say a big thank you to those who offered to help. It’s devastating but minimal compared to those who lost their home. The upstairs was destroyed. We thought it was going to be a little fire but it wasn’t, it spread throughout the building,” she said adding, “police, firefighters, first responders, I would certainly like to thank them all.”
Reagan, an employee for Darbishire Cabinets, only commented that they are all still reeling from the events surrounding the fire but she did express deep gratitude that there were no injuries.
“We are so thankful that everyone got out safe, that’s all that matters. We’d like to say thank you to the police and firefighters.
Norfolk County Fire Prevention Officer Michael Atkins said “this fire presented some challenges for our crews right from the start. First, the heavy traffic volume in downtown Port Dover was an issue, but fortunately we were able to deal with that quickly thanks to the help of the Ontario Provincial Police.”
Main Street in Port Dover was closed for several hours between Park Street and Clinton Street while firefighting operations were ongoing.
“Another issue that we encountered was that the fire had started near a wall and immediately spread up and into the attic space. The outside of the building looked relatively calm but the fire was burning and spreading inside the ceiling. Our crews had a challenge in trying to get to the seat of the fire. They did a good job keeping the fire contained. There was a bit of fire damage to the adjoining building but overall, the crews did a good job in stopping it from spreading beyond the first building,” Mr. Atkins said.
Crews from five different Norfolk County fire stations were involved in helping to bring the fire under control.
The fire was reported shortly after 1 p.m. and fire crews did not begin clearing the scene until approximately 5 p.m. with the last trucks leaving just after 7 p.m.
Mr. Atkins noted that the community support shown towards the firefighters was over whelming with several businesses and residents offering food, water, and Gatorade to the crews. “I know the firefighters were very appreciative of the support they received from the public”
Firefighters appreciated the help given by students of Southwest Fire Academy which is a fire school based in Delhi. A group from the academy were on scene and helped roll fire hose and reload equipment on the trucks.
“We’re fortunate to have this renowned fire academy located here in Norfolk County. Having the students attend was a win-win situation. The instructors had an opportunity to bring their students to an active fire scene to witness what goes on at a fire ground and the firefighters were grateful to have help getting their equipment back in service after a long, hot, hard fought battle.”

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