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Fire destroys Pictou fishing supply business

The cause of the fire Wednesday has been determined to be electrical.
The cause of the fire Wednesday has been determined to be electrical.

PICTOU – The biggest concern for Peter Douglas at 5 a.m. Wednesday was the ice in front of his business, but that all changed when he caught a whiff of something in the early morning air.

After a night of freezing rain, the Shiretown Auto businessman was sprinkling salt on the sidewalk in front of his store, when he smelled smoke.
“I could smell smoke, but I kept looking around and you couldn’t see anything. I thought someone might have started a fire, but then when I looked up again, I saw smoke just coming up above their sign. “
The Pictou Fire Department was dispatched to Vernon D’Eon Lobster Plug Etc. in the heart of downtown Pictou about 5:04 a.m. as smoke continued to fill the store and filter through the roof of the building.
Deputy Fire Chief Blake Sarson said mutual aid was automatically called, with Caribou Fire Department being the first to arrive as back up, followed by Abercrombie. Westville and Stellarton were called in to supply air for the tanks if needed, and New Glasgow was on the scene a short time later with its aerial truck to fight the fire from above.
“There was heavy smoke when we got here,” Sarson said.  “One team made entrance through the front door, but they were backed out because there was too much smoke.  You couldn’t see anything because there was much smoke and heat.  Once the windows were taken out, we started fighting it. The roof started going in, but New Glasgow aerial was here and they put the water to it.“
Flames continued to shoot through the storefront façade around 6:30 a.m., but the powerful force of water from firefighters spraying from above on the aerial truck soon took care of it.   
Dee McLean, owner of the Blue Indigo Café, which is located two businesses up from the fire scene, said she didn’t know anything was happening until she drove onto Water Street at 7 a.m. to open her restaurant.
“I saw all the fire trucks, and I couldn’t get up the road,” she said, adding that she had a brief moment of panic before she realized the fire wasn’t at her building. “I think they (the fire department) did a great job. My upstairs neighbour said the first thing they did was dose our building and Mrs. MacGregor’s with water to make sure it didn’t spread.”
Sarson said only about a foot of space exists between the fishing supply store and a building housing a barbershop and Mrs. MacGregor’s Tea Room, so it was imperative that water was directed onto surrounding buildings to contain the fire.  Apartments are located above some of the storefronts, but no injuries were reported.  
“We evacuated both buildings when we got here,” he said, adding there was some heat damage to the side of one of the buildings. “The right side here is aluminum, but further down is vinyl siding, so that is where it melted. “
He said the fact that Vernon D’Eon was located in a cement building helped contain the fire, while the light sprinkle of rain and absence of wind was also a blessing rather than a hindrance.
By 7:30 a.m., Sarson said the fire department was confident the fire was out and crews began packing up their equipment. The fire marshal is expected to visit the scene today and a steady stream of traffic continues to drive on Water Street for a glance at the fire scene.
It was business as usual for the rest of the town, with the exception of the Pictou Justice Complex, which was forced to close this morning because smoke could be smelled in the entire building. More information as to when it will reopen is expected from the justice department later.
“It would pretty near take your breath away,” said Douglas about the direction of the smoke when it was at its heaviest.  Yet, businesses further up Water Street or on the opposite side of the street from the fire scene had little or no smoke damage.    
The fire marshal is expected to be on the scene today to determine the cause of the fire. Three people were employed at the business.


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