'Everything is gone': Fire destroys St. Jacobs Farmers' Market
Published Monday, September 2, 2013 7:39AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, September 2, 2013 8:50PM EDT
An overnight fire has gutted the historic St. Jacobs Farmer’s Market near Waterloo, Ont., causing an estimated $2 million dollars.
Firefighters were notified of the blaze at about 1:45 a.m. as flames quickly spread throughout the two-storey post-and-beam wooden building.
First responders arrived within six minutes of the call. Forty firefighters from four Woolwich Township detachments responded to the scene.
But witnesses said the building’s roof caught fire within 30 minutes and then the structure collapsed.
“We saw five torches of light,” Eilish Cashubec told CTV Kitchener. “So we went towards it. The fire was coming out of the windows.”
“I watched the whole thing burn down. It was terrible.”
There were no injuries, but damage to the building -- which houses approximately 60 vendors – is estimated to be $2 million.
The building contained a “high combustible load,” Woolwich Township Fire Chief Rick Pedersen told reporters on Monday.
“(There were) a lot of food vendors in this building, a lot of quilts and other items that are sold,” Pedersen said, adding that fire crews were “very lucky” that the wind was blowing the flames away from the surrounding buildings on the property.
One of those buildings houses livestock for auction. None of the animals were harmed by the fire.
The cause of the fire remains unknown and the Ontario Fire Marshal is investigating the cause of the blaze.
“There’s a lot of devastation,” Assistant Deputy Fire Marshal Lonnie Schubert told reporters on Monday. He said the investigation is still in its early stages and he anticipates they will have more answers within the next couple of days.
“I can’t give you an answer as to where the fire started exactly yet or how the fire started,” Schubert said, adding that their goal is to help vendors get their businesses up and running as soon as possible.
“(The community leaders) want to get these businesses going and we absolutely want to do the same thing.”
Woolwich Mayor Todd Cowan told CTV News a fire alarm system was installed earlier this year in the building and officials were working to install sprinklers. Sprinklers and fire alarms were not required by the provincial fire code at the time the market building was built, he said.
The market, located in St. Jacobs, Ont., is a popular destination for local residents and tourists.
The main 24,000 square foot building houses food vendors on the first level, and the second level is devoted to home decor and crafts.
Pedersen said the outside portion of the market might be able to reopen by Thursday.
“We’re going to try to hurry this investigation and try to get some fencing up so we can somewhat of the market working,” he said.
A neighbouring building includes housewares, furniture and fashion and an outdoor market features items from local growers and Mennonite farmers.
The market is just outside Waterloo, in the township of Woolwich.
“It’s a huge loss for us here. It was an iconic place within the township and within the Region of Waterloo,” Cowan said.
He said people in the community, including those who have been working at the market for decades, are in shock.
“My goodness, (it’s) unbelievable. It’s just so hard to believe it’s all gone,” Llyod Kuepfer said. “I just feel for all the people that lost all the things they did.”
Kuepfer, who has worked at the market for 26 years, is just one of 60 vendors affected by the fire. Many of them were at a loss for words as they surveyed the damage.
“Everything, everything is gone,” said Sylvia Racine, owner of Bygone Reflections.
Some vendors also expressed concerned for their employees, saying they might have to let them go.
“To have to tell my staff that have worked for me for 15 years that we can no longer keep them on… it’s overwhelming,” said Abdullah Lawendy, who has been selling Middle Eastern cuisine at the market for 30 years.
Cowan said the economic impact the fire will have on the community is “huge.”
“It’s not just the market. It’s everything within the market and around the market. A lot of the vendors were local. The farmers were local. The Mennonite farmers were local.”
With files from CTV Kitchener
St Jacobs Market Fire
Major fire guts historic St. Jacobs Farmers' Market near Waterloo, Ont. Slide to see the market before and after the fire. Credits: Before photo by Ben Babcock / Flickr. After photo: Loren Martin sent this into CTV's MyNews on Monday, Sept. 2, 2013.