A ferocious blaze has destroyed a building on Yarmouth’s Main Street.
The fire started late in the evening on Tuesday, May 21 and burned overnight into the early hours of Wednesday, May 22.
Yarmouth Fire Department Platoon Chief Hank Nickerson said there was little firefighters could do to save the structure at 212 Main St, located at the corner of Main and Horton streets.
(Video shot by Carla Allen)
He said the fire appeared to have started in the basement, where it was fully involved when firefighters arrived on the scene. An exact cause was not known.
Flames could first be seen breaking through the rear of the building, as smoke billowed out the front of the structure – from under the eaves and from windows and doors, pushed by the wind to fill the skyline. Often times the smoke was so thick the building itself was not even visible.
An occupant who was in an upstairs section of the building got out safely, Nickerson said from the scene. The man rented an upstairs apartment. He was not injured but he lost his belongings and was very shaken up and upset. The man has been assisted by Canadian Red Cross volunteers with emergency lodging. Relatives are also helping with clothing and other basics.
The building housed a long-time local business called Ceramic Village. A description of the business is included on the Town of Yarmouth's website. It states: "Ceramic Village has been the go-to spot for paint-your-own ceramics and craft supplies. Shelves upon shelves of unpainted ceramic figurines give you almost every option imaginable. On the off chance you can’t find what you want, Ceramic Village will be more than happy to special-order it for you. Claire Usher, the owner of Ceramic Village, offers classes for both adults and children, believing that everyone, regardless of age, can find joy in artistic expression. She sees everyone from complete beginners to seasoned painters come into her store, but regardless of skill level they all leave with a sense of accomplishment and their own piece of ceramic art."
A quote from Usher in the description reads: "I just really love art, and I’ve learned a lot about art through having this business. My favourite part though has to be the kids. I just love seeing their faces light up."
Customers learning about the blaze expressed their sadness and heartbreak for the business on social media.
A section of Main Street between Albert and Forest Streets was closed to traffic and Nova Scotia Power was contacted to shut off the power to a section of the street. Power remained an issue on Wednesday as the fierce blaze had burned through some of the power lines. At times you could see flames on the lines.
Not knowing if the fire would spread to other buildings, the RCMP evacuated a number of neighbouring properties and other nearby residences. The RCMP contacted the Red Cross in case displaced residents required assistance.
“The wind played a big part in it,” Nickerson said about the blaze. “The door was open when we got there and the basement was fully involved. It was going pretty good. I knew we didn’t have a chance.”
Eventually the flames broke through to the front of the structure, punching their way through the windows and doors before engulfing the entire façade of the building. Glass could be heard shattering, along with loud pops, as the flames turned into an inferno, throwing off intense heat as firefighters were helpless to do anything but control the blaze and ensure it didn't spread to other buildings. The ferociousness of the blaze was devastating to witness. While it takes a long time to build a building, preserve it, house people and businesses in it, within a matter of hours all is lost.
The building collapsed around 1 a.m. An excavator was later brought to the scene to move the charred and burning debris around to help make it safer for firefighters to continue attack the blaze.
In addition to the Yarmouth Fire Department several Yarmouth County fire departments provided mutual aid assistance, including Port Maitland, Lake Vaughn, Wedgeport, Eel Brook and Lakes and District. The RCMP and EHS were also on the scene. While the building itself was virtually destroyed within the first couple of hours, firefighters were on the scene for around eight hours putting out the stubborn blaze.
Water was an issue early on as firefighters fought the blaze, Nickerson said. “We’ve got so much water going on it, we’re having a hard time,” he said just before midnight, saying several hydrants on Main Street, and even on Water Street, were being used to feed water to the scene. Hoses also had to run long distances.
“We’re just maxing them. But even the water is not doing any good,” he said. “It’ll just collapse.”
He was right. And while you knew it was coming, you couldn't help but gasp when it did.
Like many buildings in Yarmouth, this building had a long history in the town. According to information from the Town of Yarmouth, the two-and-a-half storey Greek Revival style-building was built in 1855. It was known as the Exchange Building earlier in it lifespan and for decades during the 1900s was also known as Peter Nichols & Co. store. There had been numerous additions and changes to the building over the years.