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Dec. 4, 2021 | Saturday
Local News
All safe after fire causes extensive damage to NOTL homes
A fire caused extensive damage to a house in Niagara-on-the-Lake early Friday morning. (Richard Harley)

Two family homes were badly damaged after a vehicle caught fire and the blaze spread to the structures early Friday morning.

Firefighters were called to the home at 162 Anne St. for a report of a vehicle fire against a building at 5:54 a.m., said Fire Chief Nick Ruller.

Ruller arrived on scene by 6 a.m. and found the fire had spread from a truck in the driveway to the house's roofline above the garage.

The call was upgraded and firefighters from four stations in NOTL were called to the scene.

John Marano, who has lived at 162 Anne since 2018 with his wife Julie and son Guy, said the fire has devastated his family.

"You have no idea," he said in an interview Friday afternoon.

Marano said his son had returned from work at about 4:30 a.m. and gone to bed. About an hour later he heard the truck's alarm going off.

"I came out and that window over there was all red, so I figured it was some car or something shining a light on, so of course I went to investigate."

He said that's when he discovered the front end of the truck was engulfed in flames.

"I got my son out and we went around to get all my neighbours out of their house and my neighbours already had called 911. I also did, but they indicated the call was already in."

Marano said a neighbour's daughter was one of the first to notice the fire.

"Her name is River. She's seven years old, the bedroom's right in the front. And she heard a noise. She looked out the window, she saw the engine on fire, and she went to her mom and dad," Marano said.

"So the father right away I believe called 911. And they were fantastic. Couldn't ask for better neighbours."

Marano said he's not sure of the damage yet. "It's anywhere between $1 and a million dollars," he said.

Now his family will have to be put up in a temporary home by their insurance company.

"Everything is in progress right now. And we're doing the best we can with the situation."

The house beside Marano's also is unlivable. It belongs to Eduardo Lafforgue, president of the NOTL Chamber of Commerce.

Lafforgue said while the fire destroyed his home and several irreplaceable objects, he is thankful everyone made it out alive.

He also heard the truck's alarm. "And when I looked through the window, there was a flame," he said.

He immediately woke his wife and dog, left the house and knocked on the neighbour's door.

"My bedroom is completely, completely destroyed. And the inside of my house," he said.

He said some Italian antiques, as well as a chair that has been with him and his wife in four countries, were destroyed.

"The important thing is that we are all alive."

Ruller said the blaze and house structure presented a challenge for fire crews.

"We had a fair amount of fire extension into the attic space. So, the biggest challenge for us at that point is that we had to work from the inside of the structure, pulling the ceilings to get at fire that was travelling through voids," Ruller said.

"Those voids are kind of unprotected spaces so the main fire spread here. The challenge that we had is that it's travelling across plywood and stuff like that up in the voids of the attic, so it was very labour intensive."

Firefighters were able to contain the blaze to two units, though there was extensive damage to a neighbouring house at 160 Windsor Cr.

"Our firefighters did a phenomenal job. They got hose lines into the affected units, pulled ceilings, did a lot of salvage work, throwing tarps to make sure that we were trying to preserve what we could of the property," Ruller said.

"The other two units of the four-unit block essentially are completely unaffected by the fire. There may be a bit of smoke damage but the damage is minimal in those areas."

Ruller said fires in dense row housing and new builds can present problems.

"This really has the potential with this type of development, with the density, it can be very challenging — lightweight construction, new builds, there's a lot of challenges that are presented with that versus some of our older building stock," Ruller said.

"We are dealing with things like floor joists that are glue and particleboard. A lot of it's engineered products, synthetic-based, so the fire has an opportunity to spread rapidly."

Ruller said he's "incredibly impressed how quick the deployment was," with the first pumper arriving on scene nine minutes after the call came in.

"The crews did a phenomenal job."

At the height of the fire, Ruller said there were about 35 firefighters on scene.

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