St-Donat fire destroys a dozen buildings
Published Monday, October 7, 2013 7:44AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, October 7, 2013 8:27PM EDT
A devastating fire ripped through the main street of a small but well-known town in Lanaudiere on Sunday, destroying a dozen businesses but causing no injuries.
The fire in St-Donat, about 130 kilometres north of Montreal, began on Sunday afternoon on Principale St. leaving heaps of charred wood and bricks in its wake.
The town's firefighters were unable to contain the flames on their own and called in help, with crews from five nearby municipalities coming to the town's aid.
The firefighters were able to control the flames by midnight, but did not extinguish the fire until the middle of the night.
By that point about a dozen buildings had burned to the ground. Most of them are commercial establishments but eight homes were destroyed as well.
Mayor Richard Benard said the disaster has left a huge scar on the village, but that he is glad nobody was hurt by the fire.
"This morning was a lot of drama for people who woke up and saw a hole in the centre of our village," he said, adding that his priority is to make sure those who lost their homes are looked after.
"We have to, first of all, take care of people, and that's the mission that is being undertaken by the people of city hall, by our services, to take care of people, to take care of the people who are suddenly homeless."
Most who lost their homes are staying with family, but some are relying on the Red Cross for help.
Now that the flames are out, investigators from the fire department and the Surete du Quebec are searching through the rubble to see if they can determine what sparked the fire.
SQ officer Benoit Richard said the crews know the fire started at the back of 450 Principale St. a building which housed several restaurants.
Witnesses told CTV Montreal that young people were seen behind the buildings just moments before the fire broke out.
“All of a sudden flames appeared and the group ran off,” said St-Donat resident Michel McNicoll, who said his wife called 911 while he began taking pictures.
McNicoll said it took about 30 minutes for the first fire trucks to arrive.
This isn’t the first fire to rip through Principale St. in the small town. In 2000, another city block was destroyed just 100 metres from the site of the latest blaze. It took as long as five years to rebuild from that incident.