Grim search for toddler at burnt barn may be fruitless

Firefighters from Woolwich township are still searching for Steven Martin, 2, who remains unaccounted for after a fire destroyed his family's barn on Friday night.

Blaze may have been hot enough to consume all remains, says fire marshal's office

Firefighters from Woolwich township are still searching for Steven Martin, 2, who remains unaccounted for after a fire destroyed a barn at his family's dairy farm on Friday night.

Investigators believe the child and his golden retriever were in the barn at 1636 Lobsinger Line just south of St. Jacobs during the fire and would not have survived.

Greg Olson, an investigator with the office of the Ontario Fire Marshal, said Sunday afternoon firefighters have searched through three quarters of the barn, which was over 10,000 square feet in size.

"The area of interest we’ve identified today is actually at the bottom of the stairway that led to a haymow," said Olson. "We’re looking for if the child was in the barn at the time and he chose to use that route to try and get away."

Fire crews searching the debris of a burnt barn in Woolwich have recovered two horses and a dozen cattle. There is still no sign of two-year-old Steven Martin, who may have been in the barn during the blaze. (Jane Van Koeverden/CBC)

The cause of fire is undetermined so far, as rescuers are concentrating their efforts on locating the boy. Olson said it’s possible his body won’t be found, and investigators are searching for fragments of clothing and the dog’s metal tag.

"[T]he fire was so hot, so the chance of the remains actually been consumed in the fire are, yes, are quite high," said Olson.

Horses, cattle recovered from barn

Two horses and a dozen cattle were removed from the debris earlier in the day, Olson confirmed.

Olson said Steven’s parents are "obviously very concerned," and have been watching and helping the crew all day. The surrounding St. Jacobs community has also been pitching in.

"The community is very very close," said Olson. "The [family] is supporting us 100 per cent."

He added that Sunday’s heat wave was an added challenge, as two dozen volunteer firefighters from Woolwich Township worked to recover the body. One member of the team suffered heat stroke Saturday.

"That was a wake-up call," said Olson. "The fire crews are working in shifts. Fifteen minutes in, fifteen minutes out."