Fire razes waterfront building

Community

It was the unmistakable sound of “pop,” “pop,” “pop,” that drew a Pictou resident to her window last Thursday night.

The noise broke through Paula Beer-Eligh’s reading on the otherwise calm and quiet evening just shy of 10 p.m.

“I went to the window and saw a large billow of smoke heading south to north,” said the Denoon Street resident. “I was just about to call 9-1-1 when I heard the sirens.”

She and her husband Garth do not have an unobstructed view of the harbourfront area, and she wasn’t sure exactly where the smoke and noise were coming from, but she knew the general area.

The building that was home to the Washtub Laundromat and Enviro Depot was destroyed in the fire.

“It was very scary,” she admitted.

“I grew up in Pictou and we’ve already lost so much due to fire. I was afraid our waterfront would be harmed.”

As she and her husband watched the flames and heard the popping noises coming from the building downtown, she said they were convinced the house next to it would be consumed with flames. But it was not.

“We were very worried about the seniors” in the Coleraine Seniors Plaza. The 19 seniors who reside there were evacuated over safety concerns, including heavy smoke, from the nearby blaze and the fact that electricity in the area was shut off due to propane tanks outside the laundromat.

Pictou Fire Chief Paul Janes said the residents of the senior’s plaza were able to return home a couple of hours later.

“We evacuated for safety,” Janes said, “because of the plastics in the Enviro Depot and the fuel load in the building.”

Janes said it took fire fighters from his department and seven others to knock the fire down.

“The fire started in the back of the building and high winds caused it to progress into the rest. We couldn’t advance because of the high winds and the structure of the building.”

Fire fighters had to use an excavator to knock down one side of the structure and get the blaze under control.

Janes said he began sending the other fire departments home around 3 a.m. and his department left the scene a couple of hours later, but returned between 6 and 9 a.m. to take care of hot spots.

Cause of the fire is yet undetermined, said Janes.

“I would like to remind people to respect the fire lines,” Janes cautioned about fire scenes. It’s natural to want photos, but stay well away on the sidelines, respect the fire and the jobs that firefighters do.

“We went down the next day,” said Beer-Eligh, “and were astonished at the damage.”

Photos by Ben Murray