By Craig Campbell, Dundas Star News
Ontario Fire Marshal investigators are reviewing photos provided by witnesses of the fire that destroyed two businesses at 10 Bond St. N in Dundas overnight Tuesday.
Samples collected from the building during an on-site investigation have been sent to the Centre for Forensic Science in Toronto. Fire marshal spokesperson Carol Gravelle wouldn't give any details about the samples.
The cause has not been determined.
"The analysis of those samples will help us," Gravelle said. "The investigator did tell me residents did provide photos and they're being reviewed."
Hamilton Police are assisting the investigation by canvassing neighbours. Police appeared to be searching the area behind 10 Bond St. N. and neighbouring townhouse Thursday morning.
Applying lessons learned from a fire at Biedermann Packaging in Dundas five years ago, firefighters covered storm sewer openings that might have possibly allowed fire fighting dowse water to drain into Spencer Creek.
Deputy fire chief David Cunliffe said crews knew they were responding to a potential industrial area - and contacted the Ministry of Environment, city water and sewer staff, and brought in a Hazmat crew in addition to preventing water from entering the storm sewer.
Ministry of Environment spokesperson Amanda Knapper said douse water was managed and contained correctly. But as an additional precaution, samples of the water were taken and results are expected next week.
Possible chemical containers seen floating in douse water in some photographs of the scene were also checked by ministry staff.
"It appears they are sealed and air tight," Knapper said. "The owner of the site is working to ensure that any potentially contaminated water is contained on site and disposed of appropriately."
The MOE reports there have been "no observable impacts" of contaminated water either on the site or in Spencer Creek.
Neither of the businesses in the building were manufacturers of chemical-based products. Prema Canada is a wholesaler of tire repair equipment, and Watson's Engraving is a sign maker.
Neither company is registered with Environment Canada national pollutant inventory.
Knapper said a list of any chemicals that were on site has been provided to the ministry.
Close to 100 firefighters were at the scene at the fire's highest point. Cunliffe said the alarm came in shortly after 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, and crews battled the blaze continuously until 8 a.m., then kept a 24 hour watch on the site.
He said at least 26 large fire vehicles were on the scene - accounting for the majority of the city's rolling stock.
Volunteer firefighters from outlying areas, career firefighters from all stations and other career staff called in were rotated into service.
"The system worked, as we've been telling people it would. It worked well," Cunliffe said. "It was a perfect example of how our seamless deployment works."
Area residents have commented on the excellent job done by firefighters in controlling the raging fire - and preventing it from spreading to neighhouring townhouses, just a few feet east of the site.
"The crews worked extremely hard to maintain control of the scene," Cunliffe said.
He said spot fires on the escarpment bank immediately behind the burning structure were not a big issue. He said radiant heat caused a few minor flare-ups that were quickly put out.
Firefighters were also prepared for issues in accessing water at the far west end of Dundas. In addition to area fire hydrants, lines were relayed from other spots on the water grid.
Six tanker trucks also shuttled water from Olympic Drive as the battle against the fire ramped up.
"It certainly was one of the biggest fires in Hamilton since amalgamation, and we've had some big ones," Cunliffe said.
No injuries have been reported as a result of the fire. But two local businesses were significantly affected.
The building at 10 Bond St. N. has been listed for sale for several months. Until the fire, it was home to Watson’s Engraving, a local sign-making company, and Prema Canada, a tire repair equipment wholesaler.
In 2009, the owner of 10 Bond St. N. participated in a formal consultation with the City of Hamilton planning department about the potential to rezone and redevelop the site into a six-storey residential building with 85 units and underground parking.
The property was listed for sale at least six months ago, with an asking price of $1,009,000. That price was later dropped to $889,000.
The listing noted the 1.72-acre site included buildings with approximately 27,750 square feet and though currently zoned light industrial it was a potential redevelopment site.
“Seller has concept plan and reports available. Buyer to verify zoning and future use,” the listing stated.
Scott Watson, who operates the sign company with his parents and one part-time employee, said they were planning to stay in the location for as long as possible. Despite the property being for sale, there had not been any notice given to relocate yet.
Watson said the company had already received offers for a couple of new locations – one in Dundas, one in Greensville – by Wednesday afternoon.
“We’ve been lucky,” Watson said, adding other sign making companies have offered their space to allow Watson’s to keep operating.
They’ve been operating at 10 Bond St. N. for five years, and before that at a couple of other Dundas locations since 1994.
Watson said they were waiting for their insurance company to get a look at the site.
They were able to get into part of the building before the fire spread Tuesday night to save their computer server, with company and customer records on it. But they were waiting to find out if some paper records might have been sparred from the blaze.