LaSalle officials proud of crews for tackling 'taxing' fire on Fighting Island

Officials are still investigating the exact cause of a fire that raged on Fighting Island and lit up the night sky Saturday in the Town of LaSalle.

"It was a significant fire on the island, but very fortunately we were able to save all the structures," said Fire Chief Dave Sutton. 

"The crews did a fantastic job of excellent tactics and setting up fire lines and defensive strategies to protect the buildings, and then subsequently worked to cut the fire off strategically at access points that they could get to and keep it from spreading further."

Crews were called to the site at around 8:30 p.m. Saturday. With support from crews from Amherstburg and Windsor, responders were able to contain the fire by around 2:45 a.m. Sunday. At the peak time of the fire, 30 firefighters were on the island.

'Very hot and very difficult'

"It was a number of hours, it was a significant effort, very taxing physically on the crews," the chief explained. 

Submitted by Gary Kaiser

"It's a difficult, very hot and very difficult type of fire to fight down in the marsh."

There were no injuries, no damage to buildings, but staff on the island are still in the process of assessing the full extent of damage to the marshes and boardwalks, Sutton said. 

According to officials, it is estimated that 250 to 300 acres of vegetation were damaged. 

The island itself is owned by an American chemical company BASF, mayor Marc Bondy explained, and is often used as an education centre for grade school students to visit the island and take part in outdoor classroom activities.

Impact to school programs unknown

Sutton added that the company acts as an environmental steward of the island, and that they've gone to great efforts to reclaim a lot of the land, take care of plant species, and track birds.

Katerina Georgieva/CBC

"I would suspect from their perspective, this is probably quite devastating in that regard, and I can't really comment on what impact it'll have on their school programs and some of their ecological programs over there."

The company also has hunting dogs on the island, which were also protected from the fire Saturday night.

Officials are investigating, but at this time, it is ruled accidental and not suspicious.

Both Sutton and Bondy praised the crews for their efforts. 

"Proud of team LaSalle as always," Bondy said.

According to a news release, BASF has said the island will reopen to visitors and students when it is safe to do so.