KILLALOE – An early morning power surge is likely what led to a basement fire at the Killaloe IDA Village Pharmacy on July 22.
The fire was reportedly discovered by Dave and Debbie Finucane, who live a few houses down from the business on Lake Street. Dave, who was helping direct traffic during the morning as fire crews battled the fire, told the Gazette he smelled smoke that morning and got his wife to call 911.
A total of 13 firefighters from the Killaloe-Hagarty-Richards fire department were first to arrive on scene at around 8:10 a.m.
“When we first arrived, we were seeing smoke from the outside,” KHR Fire Chief Bob Gareau explained.
Crews located the fire in the basement, and quickly got to work extinguishing the blaze. Chief Gareau said the fire was likely caused by an electrical problem. In the early morning hours, there was a brief power outage. Gareau said while he cannot prove the fire started as a result of the power surge, there is a “high possibility” that is what led to the incident.
As the morning progressed, it became clear that more help was needed. Mutual Aid was called and 12 firefighters from the Madawaska Valley Fire Department assisted with the fire.
“It was an extremely hot fire,” Gareau said. “That basement is stacked floor to ceiling with records and paper stock and store stock. Once things started burning, it was very, very hot down there. Our guys were coming out and they were getting heat exhaustion.”
Even when help arrived, it was a difficult fire to put out.
“The problem with that particular building is that it has been subject to a number of renovations,” Gareau explained.
There are two or three basements, crawl spaces and several additions. In order to get to the root of the problem, firefighters hacked through the walls with chainsaws and axes from the east side of the building.
“Things don’t necessarily just have a nice contiguous flow in there,” the fire chief added. “We had a very hard time getting in there and finding where the fire was. So we ended up going through the walls and putting a bit of spray in that way.”
It took fire crews six hours to extinguish the fire. Luckily, it was contained to the basement, and the main floor and apartment buildings only suffered smoke damage.
Story continues in the July 25 issue of The Valley Gazette.