UPDATED: Historic Forest building heavily damaged by fire

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Petrolia/North Enniskillen firefighters manned the aerial truck in a major fire in downtown Forest. It was one of six fire departments battling the stubborn fire.

Lambton Shores fire officials are back on the scene of a blaze which heavily damaged an historic building in downtown Forest.

Crews were called to the Key Realty office across from the Kineto Theatre late yesterday afternoon. Four of the five departments in Lambton Shores responded to the call as well as South Huron fire department. Petrolia/North Enniskillen Fire was called to assist with its ladder truck.

No one was injured in the fire.

Chief Lawrence Swift says the fire started between the floors and likely was caused by an electrical fault.

Swift says the fire was mostly extinguished and some of the fire departments had been relieved of their duties when local investigators went into the building to take a look around and determine where the blaze started.

There were wisps of smoke coming from a small area. The building was cleared and Petrolia firefighters opened the roof to attack it. That let off a huge plume of smoke.

“At one point, there must have been a compartment of some sort that was sealed. It must have had a large amount of combustible material that had super-heated during the fire,” he says. When the firefighters poked through the roof, they added oxygen causing what firefighters call a flashover.

The entire building once again filled with smoke.

Crews worked until 1:30 am Thursday to put out the blaze. Swift and investigators from the Ontario Fire Marshal are on scene now. Engineers are also looking at the building to see if it is still stable.

“In the downtown core buildings all attached together all leaning on each other,” says Swift, adding they need to be careful to make sure other buildings aren’t impacted.

Historians are saddened by the loss of another historic piece of the downtown. Officials from the Forest Museum outlined its early history in a social media post this morning.

“This building dates to prior to 1881 and appears to have been originally owned by an M.A. Bayley. In 1881 it was purchased by A.B. Barron, a photographer, who decided to have it bricked. Other businesses that operated here in its early history included; H. Hurlbut, lumber dealer; P.W. Campbell, stationer; P.A. Crews, grocer; J.J. Kerfoot, photographer. In 1900, Robert J. Vincent bought the building and it thus became known as the “Vincent Block”. Vincent and his wife, Rowena, sold men’s and ladies wear as well as dry goods. The Vincents sold their business in 1923 and later occupants included: Donald M. Fraser, Gordon Philips Men’s Wear, Clothes Quarters, Forest Fashion Fabrics, Dew’s Variety, Robinson Men’s Wear and Gamble Insurance.”