Northeast Town loses 7-bay garage and equipment to fire

LITTLE CURRENT—On Tuesday, March 20 at 2:45 am, the Little Current Fire Department responded to a fire at the Northeast Town’s seven-bay public works garage located on Gammie Street in Little Current.

The building and several pieces of equipment were severely damaged with a preliminary estimate of over $750,000 in losses and damages.

“The cause of the fire is still unknown at this time,” Northeast Mayor Al MacNevin told The Expositor on Monday. “However, based on the fire damage, we do believe that the fire started in the workshop area of the building. The fire marshal was on site Friday conducting an investigation, but we haven’t received the results yet. The fire wasn’t listed as suspicious, so we are just waiting to hear what the cause was. Thankfully no one was hurt and work has begun to replace the crucial pieces of equipment that were lost.”

The Expositor spoke with Wayne Romaine, a supervisor with the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal and Emergency Management, who confirmed that an initial investigation had been conducted by Fire Marshal Steve Klimpel on Friday, March 21.

“Right now he is in the second phase of the investigation,” said Mr. Romaine. “He has gathered all the information from the site and now he is researching and analyzing the data.”

Among the equipment lost was the Little Current snow plow, the trackless (used to plow and salt the sidewalks), steamers (used to clear frozen drains and culverts), several back up generators and numerous other small tools and equipment.

“The company we bought the trackless from has already sent one for us to rent and in the interim we are using a Kubota with a blade to clean the sidewalks,” explained Mayor MacNevin. “As for the snow plow, we have already borrowed one of the three plows from the Sheguiandah garage to clear the Little Current roads and it is now back working on the rural roads. We have been very fortunate because both Central Manitoulin and Assiginack have offered to temporarily plow some of the rural roads bordering their municipality, which will help us ensure that all the roads in the Northeast Town are kept clear.”

As for other damaged or destroyed equipment, Mayor MacNevin shared that the public works half ton and one ton pickup trucks were damaged, but at this point the town was unsure how severely.

An insurance adjuster came from North Bay Thursday morning to conduct an initial evaluation, giving the town permission to begin purchasing and renting some items.

Mayor MacNevin said that a special meeting of council would be held on Wednesday, March 26 at 7 pm to authorize the purchasing of equipment.

“Another big issue is all the drawings and records of infrastructure and logs for equipment that were lost in the fire,” the mayor continued. “Most of the records were scanned and filed on our computer system, but some things will be irreplaceable.”

“The fire department and the public works staff did an amazing job and they managed to save the new backhoe, which was in a stall farthest from where we believe the fire started, and the new garbage truck which was parked parallel to the building.”

The keys for the garbage truck were caught in the blaze, but the fire department kept the truck wet, preventing it from catching fire and the keys were even recovered Friday morning, and while warped, still started the truck.

“We are also grateful for the efforts of the members of the fire department who responded quickly to contain and extinguish the fire,” he added.

The public works staff is currently using the old town office (on Manitowaning Road) as a temporary office, but the insurance adjuster has given the town permission to set up a temporary trailer at the former public works site for staff to use.

robin@manitoulin.ca