It was what the neighbours had feared.
Saturday afternoon, Petrolia/North Enniskillen firefighters were called to 3884 Petrolia Line and found a large steel drive shed engulfed in flames. Thick black smoke billowed from the building.
Neighbours close to the building were told to stay inside with their doors and windows closed while the fire was being fought.
It took firefighters about 45 minutes to get the fire under control.
Theresa Hammond, who owns the home next door to the property, says neighbours have been complaining about the property for years. “He had vehicles after vehicles, chemicals he would store stuff,” said Hammond while she watched thick black smoke billowing from the shed just a few feet away from her.
“He’s had so much garbage, so many vehicles, so much stuff – I have pictures where you couldn’t even see the yard… He has so many chemicals and so much stuff.
He’d have the shed full of stuff… (we were afraid of) combustion build up. You get enough chemicals or a spark or something… we were worried about this and now this happens.
“This should never have happened,” says Hammond.
Enniskillen Township and Lambton County were trying to clean up the property with the property standard bylaw.
Mayor Kevin Marriott confirms the township has been working for years, on several different occasions, to get the landowner to clean up the property just west of Marthaville Road. Township and County of Lambton building officials had been on site three weeks earlier to get the landowner to continue the clean up. “It is a long process to try to resolve these complaints,” says Marriott.
Fire Chief Lawrence Swift says he had been at the site three weeks ago to deal with property standards issues. At the time, he took pictures of the interior of the shed. He says that helped when firefighters arrived on the scene.
“It made us cautious right at the beginning saying ‘nobody go in, it is just stuff that can be replaced.’”
One of the main concerns was a small shed at the back with acetylene tanks and tires in it. Swift says firefighters removed those right away. But the acetylene tanks were only the beginning of the problems.
“There were all kinds of concerns; there were propane tanks, acetylene tanks, oxygen tanks, open containers, fuel tanks, diesel tanks,” he says.
As firefighters were on scene, there were a number of explosions in the building. “There were a couple of times there was so much hissing in the building coming from the valves on the tanks that we actually just cleared the area because it is just a building… it just wasn’t worth having guys around there.”
While a dollar value hasn’t been placed on the building, the chief talked to the owner who was working in the shed, about what might have cause the fire.
“He was in the building when it caught on fire. He was using a grinder and he believes it was the cause of it.”
Swift says the owner tried to put the fire out himself first.
“By the time he called 9-1-1 the flames were shooting out the door.”