The smell of smoke still lingers in the air in Downtown Sudbury, the result of a large fire that broke out in a multi-story building bordered by Durham Street, Larch Street and Old City Hall Lane. The area is still closed to traffic.
The building held several businesses on the main floor including Oscar's Grill, Kulta Vintage, BusinessKasual, The Coulson, Diamonds, Monteleone Custom Fashions, and Thrive Health Foods, as well as three stories of residential units. All told, there are 40 units in the building.
Much is still unknown about the fire, including the cause and extent of the damages as the Ontario Fire Marshal began their investigation today.
Greater Sudbury Fire Services Deputy Chief Craig Lawrence was able to tell Sudbury.com the fire began on the first floor of the building, behind Oscar’s Grill.
“That's where our crews responded, and when they made entry, they focused their efforts on the rear of the building,” he said.
Greater Sudbury Fire crews responded to the fire at 2:18 p.m. yesterday, May 24, and battled the blaze until the late evening. At around 8 p.m. firefighters confirmed that “the loss was stopped,” and later confirmed the fire was out.
“It's a very extensive building and we had smoke migration throughout and the conditions were such that it was very hard to find the fire originally, it was so filled with smoke.” Lawrence said. He added that when they did the number of “void” or empty spaces, those small areas that are the result of renovations to older buildings, allowed the smoke to hide. “So it took crews a long time to ensure the fire was out.”
Usually, there are 24 firefighters on shift. This fire took the work of 57.
“We called off-shift firefighters and they responded very quickly,” he said. “We ended up with 57 firefighters on scene that cycled through, because that is a long time to fight a fire, they got exhausted, so they had to be rehabbed and replaced.”
No major injuries were reported from the fire or the evacuation, but two people were treated on site and released and one was transported to hospital, he said.
The downtown YMCA opened its doors to those displaced by the fire, closing their gym to offer a staging area for the Red Cross as it assisted those affected.
“The Red Cross responded, along with social services from the City of Greater Sudbury, and they set up a makeshift meeting area at the YMCA,” said Lawrence.
They offered accommodations, food and support to 23 people, four cats and two dogs. That is only the number of people who contacted the Red Cross, however.
“There are 40 units in the structure, so some people may have found their own accommodation,” said Lawrence, meaning that more residents may have been displaced, but did not contact any agencies.
Several of the businesses in the building have spoken on social media about their loss, including Kulta Vintage, Business Kasual and Oscar’s Grill. .
The Facebook post from Kulta Vintage and Business Kasual states that they “lost the store.”
“This morning we are still in shock, even though we worked into the dark last night trying to save anything the firefighters would pull out of the smoke for us ... It still feels like a bad dream,” said the joint statement from Sarah White, owner of Kulta Vintage, and Kalea Loewen, owner of Business Kasual. The two owned online clothing stores until they came together for an in-person store.
White stated that she was away from the store and asked Loewen to try to grab a few dresses from their back office. “I had no idea what she was actually doing was clearing the store of customers, literally running from a black cloud of smoke and leaving her own purse and keys behind.”
The owners stated that while they are heartbroken, “growth and creativity are born from discomfort and difficulty, so we embrace the challenge.”
Oscar’s Grill’s management team posted that they are safe, but saddened.
“Today was a devastating day for our Oscar’s Grill family,” reads the post. “Our pride and joy has been destroyed by fire.”
They state that the amount of damage is still unknown, and that they are thankful everyone is safe, and for the work of the fire department.
“Thinking of our whole downtown family and everyone who was affected by this tragic event.”
GoFundMe pages have sprouted, including one from the Downtown Sudbury BIA, which will be distributing the proceeds equally among the victims. The link to donate can be found here.
“In the face of adversity, we have seen the incredible resilience and solidarity of our community. The outpouring of support, love, and compassion has been truly inspiring. However, the impact of this devastating incident cannot be overstated,” reads the post from the Downtown BIA. “Countless individuals and families have been affected, losing their homes, businesses, and livelihoods. Our hearts go out to all those who have been displaced or are suffering from this event. We stand with you during this difficult time.”
Jenny Lamothe is a reporter at Sudbury.com.