Pictou building razed by fire

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PICTOU — A downtown storefront lies in ruins after a fire destroyed it on Monday.

Rubble was all that remained of Poppy’s variety store on Water Street on Tuesday from the nearly nine hours of battling the blaze while the store’s owner tried to determine what’s next for him and the business.

Pictou resident Kevin Pettipas opened Poppy’s One Stop and said he purchased the building in January; it was formerly the Shiretown Discount Emporium. He said the building was worth around $200,000 and the retail items were valued at nearly $250,000.

“Between the building and the contents it’s about $500,000,” he said, while estimating the damage. He was not immediately sure of the insurance on the building and business.

The store was open for business at the time the fire broke out; Pettipas said he opened a stock room door in the back of the building and discovered smoke. He dialed 9-1-1 at 11:18 a.m. to report the fire.

Pettipas said he had transferred all but the last load of retail items into the store on Water Street from a pop-up on Front Street he opened before Christmas last year.

Pictou fire fighters were at the scene shortly after and summoned mutual aid from several other departments to fight the fire.

Eight local fire departments responded and were stood down over time as the fire was brought under control. Besides Pictou, those responding to varying degrees came from Caribou District, Scotsburn, Abercrombie, Trenton, New Glasgow, Stellarton and Westville. The remaining Pictou County departments covered for them.

Pictou deputy fire chief Jason MacLeod, who was in charge of the fire scene, estimated nearly 100 fire fighters were at the scene. By dusk, Pictou fire fighters were still picking up and storing equipment.

Barricades to detour traffic were set up throughout the day and security tape blocked a large area to keep spectators back from the fire scene.

The fire spread from the back to the front of the building over several hours and threatened Shiretown Home and Auto located next door as east to northeast winds pushed bellowing smoke in that direction. A fire crew was camped on Market Street hosing the back of Poppy’s from behind Shiretown Auto.

Storage tanks containing combustibles at Shiretown were removed early into the fire fighting process.

A crew with a ladder truck from the New Glasgow Fire Department arrived into the third hour of the fire to drive water through the building’s roof.

By early evening, an excavator was brought in to push the walls in and break up the building.

MacLeod said the roof structure prolonged the battle to control the fire and keep it from spreading. A pitched roof covered the original flat roof.

He said demolishing the store means the cause of the fire will not be known.

“We had to demolish the building to get the fire out,” he said. “We were checking constantly inside the Shiretown building. I’m quite happy there was not even a burn mark on that building.”

A massive amount of water from town sources and Pictou Harbour was consumed to put out the blaze.

Town CAO Dan Troke didn’t have an immediate figure, but the volume was enough for the town to issue a conserve advisory — although not a boil advisory. Some water discolouration was also reported.

Power was shut off at Shiretown and numerous surrounding buildings while the fire persisted.

Shiretown manager Michael Douglas said the store would remain closed and power shut off until officials could be sure it was safe to reopen.

Water was seen trickling out of the store’s front entrance, but Douglas said it was never more than an inch or two deep on the shop floor. There was some smoke in the store but the stock was otherwise unaffected, he said.

“There are some light fixtures with water in them, so we shut the power off,” he said. “It will be a day or two at this point before we can open.”

Meanwhile, water drained steadily from the fire scene along gutters and into drain holes and were monitored to keep them clear.

There was no indication of flooding at MacGregor’s Tea Room across the street from Poppy’s.

PHOTOS by Angela Fraser, Steve Goodwin and Heather Brimicombe