A one-storey building containing the town hall, fire station and RCMP offices in Rogersville, N.B., was destroyed in a fire early Monday morning.
A Rogersville resident spotted the fire at about 5 a.m.
Mayor Pierrette Robichaud said when she arrived at the town hall 15 minutes later the building was engulfed in flames while local firefighters could only watch from across the street.
"That was the saddest part — to see them out there, looking on helplessly," the mayor said. "They didn’t have any equipment. They had one truck but it was a rescue truck."
The mayor said she cried when she saw the damage and she said she wasn't the only one. The office was the hub of her community, she said.
The mayor said the fire started so quickly the firefighters were unable to salvage much of their equipment.
Marc Pitre, the village's fire chief, said they lost their three newest fire trucks.
"It's a very, very hard blow to see them burning in the building and we can't get in there and get them," he said.
Mike Pitre, the fire chief's brother, climbed through a window to save the two older trucks. "I started the truck and couldn't get the door open, so we just let the truck go through the door," he said.
They escaped shortly before the roof collaped.
The value of the three trucks and equipment is estimated at $1 million.
The fire departments of Miramichi and other communities have offered to help her community replace its lost equipment, Robichaud said.
Building a 'total loss'
RCMP, who described the structure as a "total loss," set up a mobile command post in the village for the investigation. It will become their home until a permanent office is found.
The provincial Office of the Fire Marshal is joining the RCMP in the investigation.
Robichaud said she is comforted in knowing that no one was hurt in the blaze.
"We have to look at the bright side — if there is one," the mayor said. "Nobody was injured.
"It is all materials that we can replace. Maybe the only thing that we can’t replace is a lot of history, as far as municipal history [that] was inside the building."
Two schools located on the same street — W-F-Boisvert School and Ecole Secondaire Assomption — were closed on Monday because of the fire.
Many people in the eastern New Brunswick community came out to survey the damage.
Pierre Little said it's hard to grasp the extent of the damage.
"The police department is in there and the fire department is in there, and all their equipment was destroyed in the fire and they couldn't put the fire out because their equipment was in flames. It's a sad tragedy," Little said.
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