Chatham-Kent public works garage blaze could cost $1M

The Ontario Fire Marshal has been called in to investigate a massive Sunday night fire that levelled a Chatham-area public works garage – destroying the snow plows and machinery inside.

The Chatham-Kent Fire Department said the blaze broke out around 6:30 p.m. Sunday at a municipal garage on Reeders Line, northeast of Ridgetown - writes

Fire stations in Ridgetown, Orford, Thamesville and Blenheim were called in to help battle the fire, Chief Bob Crawford said. Police, paramedics and municipal officials were also on-scene.

On Twitter, the fire department said high winds made fighting the blaze difficult. Firefighters were working hard to protect the fuel tanks at the scene.

A media release stated two employees attempted to put out the blaze, but when the severity of the fire increased, the employees safely left the building.

No one was injured. Chatham-Kent fire investigators are on-scene Monday, assisting the fire marshal with the probe.

The provincial agency investigates all fires that cause deaths or serious injuries, arsons, explosions, blazes at nursing homes or vulnerable occupancies and any that cause more than $500,000 damage.

Though it’s early in the investigation, Crawford said the damage estimate from the Sunday night fire could top $1 million.

Chatham-Kent's director of public works, Miguel Pelletier, said the six snow plows lost in the fire amounts to about about 10 per cent of the fleet used by the municipality.

He said it was fortunate the fire didn't occur in the middle of a large snow storm.

“While the firefighters were dealing with the fire, we were able to move resources around to make sure that the service wasn't interrupted to the public for winter control.”

In the short term, Pelletier said coverage area of the existing snow plow fleet will be expanded along with using some contractors to provide winter control.

He said the loss of these plows “may have a more visible impact if we start getting a lot of breakdowns in our fleet, or if there's a really big (snow) event, it might take a little longer (clear the roads).”

While insurance will cover the cost to replace the snow plows, which cost $200,000 to $250,000 new, Pelletier said the long-term plan will be investigating the purchase and replace of the machinery and construction of a new building.

He said there is another older building on Erie Street in Ridgetown that the dozen or so affected public workers employees can work out of.

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