Tenants in Waterford relocated after fire
No injuries were reported Thursday in a fire at a historic mansion in downtown Waterford.
The fire broke out in an apartment at 180 Main Street South around 3:45 p.m. None of the seven tenants were home when the alarm went up and all had to be relocated once the situation was under control.
The Norfolk County Fire Department reports that a third-floor tenant came home Thursday afternoon to discover the building’s fire alarm had been activated. The occupant discovered smoke coming from his apartment.
“One of the occupants grabbed a fire extinguisher and opened the door in the hopes of fighting the fire himself,” Michael Atkins, a fire prevention officer with the Norfolk department, said in an email.
“However, once the door was opened he quickly realized that the fire was larger than he could handle with an extinguisher, at which time he closed the door and exited the building to call 911.”
Norfolk firefighters brought the situation under control quickly and managed to save the structure. Atkins noted that the occupant closed the door to the apartment when he realized he could not knock down the flames with the extinguisher. This was important, Atkins said, because it starved the fire for oxygen while preventing it from spreading into the hallway.
Most of the damage was confined to the upper-level unit. An inspection determined that the flames had not spread to the attic.
The cold snap that settled over southern Ontario this week presented local firefighters with additional challenges. Atkins said the wind chill at the scene was in the range of -40 degrees C.
Firefighters were frustrated when they could not activate two hydrants in the neighbourhood because they were frozen. They were eventually forced open, but Atkins says this did not delay the firefighting effort.
Atkins says the Norfolk department prepares for such contingencies during cold weather. Pumper trucks have a water supply of their own while tanker trucks are dispatched to all fires, even those in urban areas where hydrants are nearby.
“The crews did encounter frozen caps on a couple hydrants,” Atkins said. “But they did access another hydrant before they even needed to use the water from the tanker trucks on scene. It had zero impact on the firefighting operations.”
An investigation has determined that the fire is not suspicious. A cause has yet to be determined. A preliminary estimate pegs the damage at $250,000. Fire was restricted to the apartment unit in question but there is water damage in other parts of the building.
The Norfolk department reports that the building is insured. However, it is not known if tenants were insured for contents.
The 19th-century mansion was built as the home of the Becker and York families, merchants in the early history of Waterford. The Becker and York families were related by marriage to the Sovereign (sometimes spelled Sovereen) family, another of the town’s founding families.
Karen Lindsay of Waterford, a member of the Waterford and Townsend Historical Society and a past executive member, said the mansion later served as a hospital and after that as a seminary.