• READ THE UPDATE: West Island Assistance Fund grapples with loss after devastating fire

  • A fire on Monday destroyed a building used by the West Island Assistance Fund, a charity which helps families with food, clothing, furniture and runs a Christmas basket program.

    Firefighters rushed to the building, at the corner Centre-Commercial Street and 4th Avenue South, around 11 a.m., because of a fire, a spokesperson for the Montreal fire department said, but they later left the scene.

    Then, around 2:15 p.m., smoke engulfed the building anew. It was unclear if the incident was the result of a different fire, or if the previous one reignited, the spokesperson said.

    Fire in Roxboro
    (image: Tim Destunis)

    Between 60 and 100 Firefighters from three stations battled the blaze as it consumed the building. No one was injured.

    The cause of the fire was unclear on Monday evening.

    A nearby daycare was evacuated as a precaution and electricity was cut off to neighbouring homes during the fire.

    The flames destroyed the building, and on Monday evening, workers had already begun demolishing what was left.

    In addition to several of the charity's administrative offices, the building was a thrift shop where used goods were sold. It was a source of revenue for the charity, according to Michael Labelle, president of the West Island Assistance Fund.

    The fire was a setback for the organization, but likely wouldn't directly affect food bank services or Christmas basket deliveries, which operate out of a different building, Labelle said. The organization's management staff will meet on Tuesday to review the damage and decide what to do next.

    At the site of the fire on Monday evening, Pierrefonds Mayor Jim Beis said the community was reeling from the fire. The charity served the most vulnerable in the community, he said.

    "To see this go up in smoke today ... It's a terrible situation we're living today and even worse for the administrators and the volunteers and the people they serve," Beis said.

    The community would recover, and the building would be rebuilt, he promised. In the meantime, the borough offered space to help the charity operate over the holiday, Beis said.

    Once charity organizers are aware of their needs, the public will be made aware, Beis said.

    "The organization has to be the one that directs the public in terms of the type of support they need so that they don't get material that they can't use," he said. "I would recommend that the public be patient, as the organization is, and then by tomorrow, we should have a direction in terms of how the public can help."