Fire severely damaged a grocery store in Ignace Tuesday morning, closing Highway 17 for several hours while fire fighters battled the blaze.

The fire started at Gramma's Supermarket and Hardware around 3 a.m. CT. Fire departments from Wabigoon and Dryden made the hour-long drive to help fight the blaze.

Barb Carpenter

Barb Carpenter of Sioux Lookout, Ont., was driving through Ignace when she saw the fire. (Supplied)

Barb Carpenter, an education counsellor from Sioux Lookout, Ont., was driving through the area at the time.

She said the fire looked small enough to be contained when she arrived.

"Unfortunately that didn't happen, because it just spread quite quickly. The fire engulfed the building," said Carpenter.

"It didn't take too long." 

Swift reaction on social media

Carpenter stayed at the scene for about an hour, taking pictures and video on her smartphone and posting on social media.

"Like a fire, it spreads real quick too," she said. "I got an immediate reaction."

A house behind the store, as well as motel beside the structure were evacuated.

Firefighters used the motel lobby to try and warm up, as temperatures were close to –45 C with wind chill this morning.

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