Ormstown residents awoke to devastating news and the smell of smoke and on July 26 after the village’s Express 57 restaurant was engulfed in flames overnight.
Firefighters were called to the scene shortly after 2 a.m. following reports from citizens as well as a second call sent automatically from the neighbouring Abracadabra Early Childhood Centre.
“When the fire trucks arrived on scene, the fire was already well progressed,” says Ormstown fire chief Stephen Knox, noting flames were pouring from the front windows. Despite the intensity of the flames, firefighters were able to contain the fire relatively quickly, and had it under control by 3:30 a.m.
Knox says the firefighters then focused on eliminating any hot spots within the two-storey building. The apartment above the restaurant suffered significant smoke damage, and the CPE, which shares a wall with the restaurant, was closed on Tuesday. According to Knox, the daycare was not damaged, but was closed as a precaution as smoke had penetrated the building.
A total of 18 firefighters from Ormstown were on scene to battle the flames. They were joined by firefighters from the Huntingdon Fire Department as well as the Howick Volunteer Fire Department. Tankers from Howick and the Franklin fire department were also called to the scene.
Knox says upon arrival, the propane tanks were shut off as there was evidence of a propane leak. He suggests it was fortunate the tanks were located at the opposite end of the building to the kitchen, where the fire originated. “We are lucky the building was built as solidly as it was,” says Knox, of the iconic brick building.
Knox says he believes the fire was electrical in nature, but the cause has yet to be confirmed.
The restaurant’s owner, Claude Gervais, posted several emotional videos to social media throughout the day, depicting the fire burning as well as the aftermath inside the former dining area renowned for its retro look and memorabilia. Gervais, who celebrated the restaurant’s 25th anniversary just last year, referred to the fire as his worst nightmare.
According to a report by the Journal le Saint-François, Gervais’ mother, who lives above the restaurant, called and alerted her son to the fire. Gervais arrived a few minutes later, and with the help of neighbour Patricia Lessard, managed to rescue her from the burning building. “We are safe, my mom is safe,” he posted to social media.
Friends and patrons posted heartfelt messages expressing their sadness and support for Gervais and the team behind Express 57 throughout the day.