Trifecta of fires includes Mattawa fire hall

·2 min read

Gusting winds fanned flames across Mattawa late last week and left several buildings destroyed or damaged – including the town fire hall.

“We had three fires in two days,” said Mattawa Fire Chief Paul Lafreniere Sunday while the insurance adjuster and engineer were inspecting the damage at the Pine Street building where vehicles and equipment are stored.

On Thursday, the Belanger farm home and business in nearby Papineau Cameron Township was destroyed in a massive ball of flames fed by winds gusting to 80 kmph. So was Tom Wilson’s mechanic garage on Highway 17, with the intense heat melting the siding of his home nearby and almost taking it as well. Traffic was detoured at Calvin Township, whose volunteers joined with Papineau Cameron and Mattawa fire fighters.

See: Historical farmstead destroyed by fire

Winds were so powerful that night Hydro One lost transformers and more than 1,000 customers lost power, some for more than 24. Antoine Mountain had planned to open the ski hill Friday after almost three months idled by pandemic restrictions but suffered another day closed and didn’t open until Saturday.

Comments on the social media pages were thankful nobody was injured. Even the animals at the farm were saved.

At 8:30 p.m. Friday night, after the Mattawa fire fighters had returned their equipment and vehicles to the department building ready for service, the 911 emergency call came in with a familiar address.

Lafreniere said he answered the page and received one of the messages fire chiefs everywhere hope never to hear: “visible signs of smoke at the fire station …”

There was a quick response and they got the equipment out and fire under control quickly, he said, adding it took a long time getting the façade off to ensure the gusting winds wouldn’t reignite a smoldering section.

“At 80 kmph, the winds give an ember unlimited potential,” he said, describing how oxygen fuels the flames.

“We’re still looking at the origin,” Lafreniere said, noting they believe it may have started with one of the heaters. “We’re lucky it happened when it did (instead of in the middle of the night when nobody would see the smoke).”

“They say these things come in 3s, I hope we’re done now,” Lafreniere said.

Dave Dale is a Local Journalism Reporter with LJI is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Dale, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,