Ottawa

Saw mill building destroyed by fire in Pembroke, Ont.

A massive fire at a lumber yard in Pembroke, Ont., destroyed a saw mill and knocked out hydro equipment Wednesday night, briefly plunging most of the city into the dark.

Part of Heideman lumber yard building collapsed onto major transformer

A firefighter stands in front of the remains of the saw mill at the Heideman lumber yard in Pembroke, Ont., on Jan. 3, 2019. The mill was destroyed the night before by a major fire. (Jen Beard/CBC)

A massive fire at a lumber yard in Pembroke, Ont., destroyed a saw mill and knocked out hydro equipment Wednesday night, briefly plunging most of the city into the dark.

The fire started at about 8:10 p.m. Wednesday at the Heideman lumber yard on Boundary Road, which was run by International Lumber until a few years ago.

Pembroke fire Chief Daniel Herback said the fire seems to have started in a hopper that collects sawdust, which then collapsed onto a hydro transformer.

"Our local hydro company could not confirm to us these lines were no longer live, so we had to stand back a little ways, a little further than we would have liked, to attack the fire," he said.

No one was injured.

The Ontario Fire Marshal's office has taken over the investigation.

Fire destroys saw mill building, knocks out power

3 years ago
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Gary Lowe, captain of the Pembroke Fire Department, described firefighting efforts at the Heideman lumber yard. 0:31

Hydro crews had to navigate the flames to make repairs and restore power to 2,770 homes.

Power was restored to most of the community by 10:40 p.m. Wednesday, and more than 300 customers got it back Thursday morning, according to the Ottawa River Power Corporation. 

Mayor Michael LeMay said the town was incredibly dark overnight, with a red haze lighting up the horizon.

Herback said that as of 7 a.m. firefighters were still checking the area for hot spots and would likely be there most of the day.

He estimated the damage will be valued in the millions of dollars.​

No shelter opened by city

The fire destroyed the saw mill building at the lumber yard, LeMay said. Heavy equipment will be brought in to tear down what little remains to allow firefighters to better douse areas that continue to smoulder. 

A fire at a lumber mill in Pembroke, Ont., west of Ottawa, briefly knocked out power to most of the city when part of the building collapsed onto a major transformer. (Shawn McFarlane/Twitter)

Most of the lumber in the yard did not catch fire, he added.

The city did not provide information about the fire on its social media platforms and did not open a shelter for people without power to go to.

The temperature overnight hovered around –13 and –14 C, with wind chill values in the –15 to –20 range.

I think that there are areas where we're going to be able to improve.- Pembroke Mayor Michael LeMay

LeMay said the city will look into potentially opening a shelter during future emergencies. He said he did see on social media that some people with power were opening their homes to those without power.

"We will be sitting down very shortly with our emergency people within the city to go over what occurred, how it occurred, how can we improve moving down the road," LeMay said. "We'll be looking at that as part of the meeting once we have all the information available on how to better serve the people."

Paramedics were dispatched to the fire to support firefighters, and also responded to 911 calls from people having issues with oxygen tanks and cold temperatures during the power outage. (Renfrew County Paramedics)

LeMay said it was hard to provide accurate, updated information because hydro workers didn't know how long it was going to take to fix the power outage.

"I think that there are areas where we're going to be able to improve .... to have a [shelter] place, and then how do you communicate with those people ... nowadays I guess the easiest way is social media," said LeMay.

Renfrew County paramedic Chief Michael Nolan said his crews responded to 911 calls in the area from people without power having issues with the cold.

They distributed some blankets and took some people to the Pembroke hospital to get warm, he said.

Pembroke is about 150 kilometres west of Ottawa. 

With files from Krystalle Ramlakhan

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