From Northumberland Today

Damage could reach $1-M

By Pete Fisher

Monday, February 02, 2004

Local News - Damage could reach $1-million following a major fire at Cobourg IGA on Saturday evening.

Ironically, firefighters got the call while they were undergoing command training at the firehall for a structure fire.

Cobourg dispatch received several 911 calls shortly after 10 p.m. reporting the store was full of smoke. The tone was put out for firefighters to respond at their highest priority — what is known as Level Four.

While travelling down Division Street to the scene, Captain Mark Diminie noticed the smoke in vicinity of Ewart Street and knew that he had, “a working fire.”

He immediately called for assistance from Baltimore and for Port Hope’s aerial truck.

Capt. Diminie said that upon arrival he noticed, “a large amount of smoke coming from basically all corners of the building. There was also flames visible from the main entrance area to the store, and also coming through the roof.”

It was immediately confirmed by the owner, Rob O’Neil, that no employees had been inside the building since around 8 p.m.

Hose lines were stretched from hydrants to the front and east side of the building to battle the blaze. Then, when firefighters were ready, the large front windows of the store were smashed one by one allowing firefighters access to the blaze.

Sparks flew from a saw as fire crews cut through a metal door at the rear to gain access on the east side.

Firefighters could only go into a defensive attack because of the risk of possible flashover and the potential danger from the steel truss roof.

“As far as firefighting goes, it’s a type of roof that is very prone to collapse in the early stages of a fire,” Capt. Diminie said. “We had a great deal of flame and smoke at that time and the last thing we want to do is risk the lives of any firefighters going in on a attack like that when it’s vented through the roof.”

Firefighters knew by the flames that initially the fire was in the area of the southeast corner of the building near the store offices.

Three aerial trucks were set up as a first line of attack to knock down the flames coming through the roof. One Cobourg ladder truck was stationed on Orange Street, another was set up on Spring Street, along with Port Hope’s aerial truck.

More than 30 firefighters from the three departments brought the blaze under control in about an hour, but the building suffered heavy damage.

A portion of the roof was burned away, steel has been warped because of the heat of the fire, and fire-damaged and water-soaked ceiling tiles litter the aisles of the store.

Capt. Diminie said it will be a “long and drawn-out” affair to completely extinguish the fire.

“It’s frustrating to a point. Because of the steel truss roof you can’t go in and be aggressive as you want to be,” he said. “The problem is when you do your exterior attack, because of the steel corrugated roofing on the building, we can penetrate with our water streams so you’re kind of caught between a rock and a hard spot.”

Firefighters were also hampered by the extreme cold temperatures.

Hose lines can freeze up very quickly, the metal ladders on the fire trucks freeze because of the over-spray of water, and the overspray causes slippery conditions for the firefighters on the ground.

“We’ve had probably four or five firefighters go down and a couple of bystanders have fallen,” Capt. Diminie said.

He said the fire trucks are slower in the colder weather and “a couple times we had to stop doing what we were doing to get rid of the ice.”

The Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office will be called to help determine the cause of the fire. Because of the structural and product damage, estimates could reach $1-million.

“It appears that (the fire) not suspicious, and an electrical inspector is being called in,” Capt. Diminie said.