UPDATE: Fire destroys Woodstock two-unit building

by | Jan 31, 2024

Residents escape, but pets perish, as blaze levels two-unit structure

An early-evening fire on Tuesday, Jan. 30, destroyed an apartment building at 123 Charlotte Street on Woodstock’s southside.

The fire department responded to the reported fire at approximately 8:30 p.m. to battle the stubborn blaze in frigid temperatures with a windchill dropping below minus 20 degrees Celsius.

Fire Chief Harold McLellan said residents of the two apartments escaped the burning building before the fire department arrived, but he believed one or more pets perished in the fire.

He said the first 9-1-1 call occurred at 8:29 p.m., reporting a structure fire “with someone trapped.”

McLellan said the fire crews were on the road by 8:33 p.m. and arrived at the fire within five minutes.

He said Woodstock Police Force members were already on the scene and confirmed everyone safely escaped the burning structure.

Firefighters fought the fire with an external and internal attack but could not gain control as the fire spread through the older two-and-a-half-storey wooden structure.

McLellan said he decided to call in an excavator to bring down the structure.

An excavator operator begins tearing down the burning building. (Lilli Mazerolle photo)

“It got to a point where it was unsafe to be in the building,” the chief said.

He said the second-level floor was already “spongy,” making an internal attack no longer safe.

“The only logical decision was to call in the excavator,” McLellan said.

He said fire crews wanted to ensure the fire didn’t spread to nearby structures, including a small residence within an estimated nine feet of the burning building.

The neighbouring couple, Noah Walton and Lilli Mazerolle, stood in the cold, watching the firefighters battle the fire in the structure towering over their home.

Walton said he called 9-1-1 at 8:33 p.m. when they discovered the fire next door, but someone had already reported it.

Mazerolle said she believed at least a couple of cats didn’t make it out of the house.

Noah Walton and Lilli Mazerolle first noticed flames coming through the walls of the neighbouring building adjacent to their home’s backyard. (Lilli Mazerolle photo)

McLellan said he was told pets were trapped inside, but he couldn’t confirm what or how many.

The chief said it is difficult and dangerous for people escaping a burning building to locate pets, especially cats. He explained that scared animals often hide, making locating them through the smoke and flames almost impossible.

McLellan said that in addition to the police force, Ambulance New Brunswick and an N.B. Power crew attended the fire scene. He said power crews shut off electricity to the building.

Mazerolle and Walton said they were also without power.

Mazerolle said they became aware of the fire when they noticed flames coming from the back corner of the house adjacent to their backyard.

McLellan confirmed that is where firefighters first focused upon arrival, calling it the “Bravo-Charlie corner,”

He explained firefighters label each of the four sides of a building with letters, starting with the front as A, then going B, C, and D clockwise.

McLellan said the type of wooden structure, which he described as balloon construction, is challenging for firefighters. He said flames quickly climb up the walls from bottom to top.

The burning building towers over the small residence next door. (Lilli Mazerolle photo)

He said the older structure, turned into apartments, probably underwent several renovations over the years.

McLellan said that, at this point, they consider the fire as “accidental.”

He said the Woodstock Police attended the fire scene, and he kept the Fire Marshal’s Office informed about the situation.

With what remains of the structure, McLellan explained it would be difficult to determine an exact cause of the fire.

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