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Kitchen fire suspected in Timmins blaze that displaced around 100 tenants

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A kitchen blaze is suspected to be the cause of a devastating weekend fire at a historic Timmins building, an official told CTV News on Monday.

The fire at the residential building located on Spruce Street South started shortly before 1 p.m. on Saturday and around 2:45 p.m., the roof started to collapse, so firefighters were evacuated and weren't allowed back until Monday afternoon.

Fire crews brought in aerial water towers to combat the fire on the roof of the Empire Complex in Timmins, Ont. on March 23, 2024. (Supplied/City of Timmins)

No one was hurt in the fire, but 100 tenants have been displaced.

Timmins fire officials said crews had some challenges when battling the blaze.

Cold weather caused equipment to freeze up and the fire trucks had to be taken back to the fire hall several times to warm up and thaw out as crews worked.

Residents reported seeing smoke Sunday morning as firefighters continued to work on hot spots.

The age of the building and extensive renovations that have taken place inside over the years also presented some challenges to firefighters making it difficult to reach the various hot spots.

Deputy fire chief Scott Atkinson told CTV News in an interview Monday, that they think the building can be salvaged and won't have to be torn down, but the damage is estimated to be in the millions.

"We've just got the okay from the engineers to be able to go into the building and it is structurally sound, so I have my fire prevention division coming down in there," Atkinson said.
"It started in one of the apartments and we're thinking it's the kitchen, but we can't verify, we can't confirm it until they were able to get in and have a look."

As such, the Ontario Fire Marshal has been called in for consultation.

Ice can be seen hanging from the power lines in front of the building Monday.

Ice hangs from power lines outside of Empire Complex in Timmins following a fire Sunday. March 25/24 (Lydia Chubak/CTV Northern Ontario)

Firefighters at Empire Complex in Timmins after fire Sunday. March 25/24 (Lydia Chubak/CTV Northern Ontario)

Atkinson is asking people to be careful in the area because of the ice on the road and sidewalks as a result of the firefighting efforts.

He said the road might be closed off for good because the city is going to start tearing down the overpass over Algonquin Boulevard located around the corner.

A fire at Empire Complex in Timmins is being investigated. March 25/24 (Lydia Chubak/CTV Northern Ontario)

"We're doing everything we can to get in there and be able to hopefully get some, some personal belongings out of the building," Atkinson said.

Supporting displaced tenants

"An official donations plan has been finalized," Cochrane District Social Services Administration Board said in a news release.

"The public is highly advised to avoid visiting the Bon Air Motel or dropping off any donations at their location. The Bon Air Motel is not accepting donations and is prioritizing a safe environment for the well-being of the evacuees."

Service Timmins at city hall will collect cash donations Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Local charities and second-hand stores are collecting clothing, hygiene and sanitary donations.

  • St. Vincent Paul - Tuesdays and Thursdays 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Second Time Around - Tuesdays through Saturdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Something Special Boutique - Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

"Food donations will not be officially accepted, given the public health concerns and capacity to manage intake," CDSSAB said.

"Instead, Service Timmins will prioritize a portion of the donations to purchase food from local sources to support the Empire Building evacuees."

Volunteer opportunities are available online or by contacting Jennifer Gorman with United Way Centraide North East Ontario by email at j.gorman@uwcneo.com. 

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