Fire levels Tim-Br Mart shed

Between $500,000 and $1 million up in smoke

By Kristen Shane


No one was hurt or killed but a fire Sunday levelled an 8,000-square-foot storage shed at Tim-Br Mart in Kincardine.


A customer picking up product in the store’s back yard first noticed the fire in the north-east corner of Shed 3, one of nine, which was a main storage building located directly behind the store. It held ceramic tiles, stacks of plywood, garage doors and special orders, among other materials.


Two yard workers were in another area outside.


Inside the store, acting supervisor Dave McDonald was working at the service desk in the first hour after opening at 11 a.m., when the customer reported the fire.


“We ran out to extinguish it,” he recalled Sunday afternoon while watching an excavator crumple sheets of collapsed steel roofing to move them out of the way of fire fighters after the blaze had calmed down.


An excavator from Bill and Tom Kempton Construction Ltd. is about to move parts of the Tim-Br Mart shed's roof that collapsed in the fire. (Kristen Shane photo)


McDonald and other workers used several hand-held extinguishers, but quickly realized it was too much for them to handle.


“One of the employees, I told them to get on the phone and call 911,” he said.


In the mean time, workers moved three trucks from the shed area and several propane canisters from a customer drop-off bin less than 100 metres away from the burning building.


“And as I went through the (main store) building, I just rounded everybody up and I got them out of the store to a safe location,” said McDonald.


Eight employees and a few shoppers gathered by the store sign at the edge of the parking lot and waited for the screaming fire trucks to arrive.


“It seemed like forever,” McDonald said with a laugh. “But no, they were really quick to respond.”

First a Kincardine crew came. Tiverton and Ripley fire fighters later responded.


“Within no time, the flames were coming out of the building. A tower of black smoke just was coming straight out because the wind was pretty calm at the time,” said McDonald.


Jamie MacKinnon, Kincardine’s fire chief, said some fire fighters sprayed the flames from pumper trucks while others ran hoses 2,000 feet to the nearest hydrant, across Highway 21, by the Sutton Park Inn. That took about 15 minutes. The Kincardine detachment of the South Bruce OPP closed the highway and rerouted drivers from the King Street off-ramp to Concession 5 for about three hours so the hoses could cross the road.


“Once we got a water supply set up, they had it under control in the first hour,” said MacKinnon.


“The light wind blowing away from the main store helped, because the store itself would be a big loss,” he said, dressed in full firefighting gear at the scene a few hours later.


As it is, MacKinnon estimated the fire caused between $500,000 and $1 million damage, mainly because of the materials inside the shed. Two forklifts were also charred, with their wheel bearings left sitting on the ground. Flames had melted the tires from under them.


“It’s probably the largest fire we’ve had in the last five years, in terms of a dollar figure,” said MacKinnon. “As far as the work it takes to put it out, (it’s) similar to a large barn fire.”


At its peak, about 40 firefighters battled the blaze. Heat radiating from the flames shattered glass on the roll-back door of the store’s receiving area, directly in front of the burnt shed. The front of a Pepsi machine leaning against the outside of that wall melted into a drooping brown sheet.


Heat damaged stacks of shingles piled under the roof of a shed directly south of Shed 3 and caused some structural damage to the north-side shed.


It could have been worse.


“(I’m) happy that no was hurt,” said store co-owner Harvey Deleeuw. “We can rebuild. And we will rebuild, so that’s not the issue.”


The store closed for the rest of the day Sunday, while neighbouring Home Hardware stayed open.


Deleeuw was set to re-open Monday morning. He had already ordered stock from his business partner in Miller Lake and was set to replenish some of the burnt merchandise by Monday afternoon.


MacKinnon praised the store’s employees for their quick thinking in trying to extinguish the fire, moving the propane tanks, evacuating the store and calling 911.


“There are requirements in the fire code (for lumber stores such as Tim-Br Mart),” MacKinnon said. “In this case, they met all the requirements.”


Nevertheless, the fire started somehow, and he is still trying to figure that out.


“At this time, we’re treating it as a suspicious fire, because we don’t really have anything to show us a source,” he said.


By the end of the afternoon Sunday, firefighters were still dousing small flare-ups and white smoke billowed from the four-hour-old fire. Police were set to secure the area, which is treated as a crime scene until after an Ontario fire marshal investigates. One was set to arrive Monday morning.


MacKinnon said he may know more by the end of this week about what caused the fire.