Major fire destroys historic building in downtown Magog

A major fire razed a large historic building in the heart of downtown Magog in Quebec's Eastern Townships Tuesday morning.

The building was built in the early 1900s and had businesses on the main floor, with two floors of apartment units above.

Fifteen people are without a home because of the fire, but none of them were hurt. The city says a firefighter was lightly injured.

The first call to police came at 3:46 a.m. By 6 a.m., the entire building was engulfed in flames and parts of the structure could be seen crumbling.

At least two other buildings were damaged in the fire, which more than 60 firefighters were still battling hours later.

In a press conference Tuesday morning, Magog Mayor Vicki May Hamm said the fire appeared to have been started after strong winds knocked a hydro pole down in front of the building.

A video taken early this morning shows the building's entire facade falling into the street.

William Theriault Venne and his girlfriend Sofyana Dupuis moved into the building last week and were planning on getting insurance for his unit today. They say they lost everything.

Venne says he heard an electricity pole fall down onto the street during the night and then saw its transformer explode. He believes it started a fire in one of the shops on the first floor.

He and Dupuis tried to go back to sleep afterward, but the smell of smoke kept him awake and he decided to call firefighters. 

Venne tried to activate the building's fire alarm, but said it wouldn't go off.

"I went back upstairs and screamed into the hallway, 'OK, everybody has to get out. There's a fire!'" Venne said.

Geneviève Proulx/Radio-Canada

A neighbour knocked on doors, he said, and everyone was able to get out on time.

No injuries have been reported so far.

Sherbrooke fire crews were called in to help battle the fire and a large perimeter has been erected. There are several power outages in the area.

Hamm said schools were still open, but that the hospital a block away from the fire had cancelled morning appointments. 

Magog's city hall is closed for the day.

The building was commissioned in the early 1900s by a man named Joseph Deragon for $1,500.

It was known as the Magog Opera House and hosted literary clubs and theatre productions at the time, according to the city of Magog's website.

With files from Radio-Canada