On March 5th, a fire broke out at East Ferris’ municipal public works garage. Nobody was hurt, and the fire was extinguished without incident, but the building took a lot of damage. After a thorough investigation, the extent of the damage has been realized—the building is a write-off.
Although most of the damage was invisible from the exterior, inside, the smoke and heat damage was intense. The building is “a total write-off, a total loss,” explained Jason Trottier, East Ferris’ chief administrative officer.
East Ferris’ fire chief Frank Loeffen conducted the investigation into the fire with the help of an investigator sent by the insurance company. “Nothing was suspicious,” Chief Loeffen found, noting the cause of the fire was “electrical failure in the ceiling.”
If you’re facing the front of the building, the fire started near the ceiling on the left side “where the heaviest fire was.” Rodents or mice could have led to the electrical failure, but that could not be determined. The chief and the investigator took about “three hours going through,” the building, “following the fire patterns” until the “area of origin” was revealed.
Now the municipality is working on a new design with Kenalex Construction for a new garage. They are also working on a cost estimate for the build, which will most likely fall within the one and a half to two-million-dollar range.
The new building won’t be “identical to what’s there,” Trottier said, as the plan is to build it bigger “up to 50 per cent larger than we currently have.” That extra space will allow for more equipment, and some upgrades to the worker’s amenities. There is no lunchroom now, but there will be in the new building.
The building is from the 70’s, Trottier explained, so although “the fire was a significant loss for us,” building a new garage will allow for some upgrades. Insurance is covering much of the cost, but the municipality will have to pony up “an additional $800,000” for the garage, which has been included in the municipal budget, Trottier said.
Besides damages to the building, the public works fleet took a big hit. “Three tandem trucks” will be replaced, Trottier said, and a backhoe and loader were also casualties of the fire. The backhoe and loader have “been delivered,” at “close to half a million” for the two, but the trucks are still on order, to be delivered “sometime this winter.”
Until then, the municipality is looking for some used trucks to buy which will get them through the summer and the first snows until the new machines arrive. Once they do, the used trucks will be sold.
The building is a steel frame structure, and to get the steel for the new building will take about five months from ordering, Trottier explained. The goal is that municipal councillors will pass the design plans once they are complete, and then the order can be placed. Trottier expects this to happen within the upcoming weeks, which should see the steel arriving by late October.
Construction will begin about that time, but the expectation is that the building will be finished by March of 2023. In the meantime, a portable office has been rented for the six-person crew, and Trottier hopes some of the new building will be usable throughout the winter, before all the finishing touches are complete in March.
The fire chief reminds people to arm themselves against fire with working smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and “a plan to get out of your house” if flames erupt. “This is a steel building,” he said, “and look at the damage it sustained, now imagine if it was a wood structure, that would have destroyed a house.”
David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.