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Fire at the O’Connor building considered suspicious

A fire that significantly damaged the O’Connor Building in Huntingdon on Tuesday is now under investigation by the Sureté du Québec.

“The origin appears to be suspicious,” confirms sergeant Audrey-Anne Bilodeau, a spokesperson for the provincial police. Officers and fire scene technicians were on site throughout the day on Wednesday, sifting through the damage.

Three teenagers, between the ages of 13 and 15, have been questioned by investigators over their potential involvement in the fire. Bilodeau confirms the three are considered suspects.

Huntingdon fire chief Marc Voyer agrees with the SQ’s assessment of the nature of the event. The building was abandoned in 2015, and the electricity has been shut off for years.

The fire started in the rear section of the historic O’Connor building on April 19. Severe damage to the building was clearly visible the following day. (PHOTO Sarah Rennie)

Voyer says the fire call came in at 5:03 p.m. By the time firefighters arrived on scene minutes later, violent flames and thick smoke were already pouring out of windows at the rear of the building. “I was sure we were there for the night,” says Voyer, who admits he was concerned they might lose the historic building.

Fire departments from Huntingdon, Godmanchester, Hinchinbrooke and Sainte-Barbe responded to the general alarm fire, while ladder trucks were sent from the Chateauguay and Malone departments in New York State.

More than 90 firefighters were involved in the operation, which ended around 11 p.m.

“We were defensive right to the end,” says Voyer, of the response, which involved dousing the building from all angles, including the roof. Windows were shattered to allow water to penetrate the building. “We went in at the end to tap out all of the hot spots,” says Voyer, explaining he did not want to be called back to a fire that had restarted.

There were no injuries reported, or fire damage to nearby buildings.

According to Bilodeau, the SQ investigation is ongoing, and could take some time as technicians work to confirm both the cause and the circumstances of the fire.

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1 Comment

Lois Shaw 2022-04-21 at 12:39

Thank you for quick updates to keep us so well informed

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