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Three-year-old Ancaster fire cause is officially undetermined

2009 Archmill fire report finally released

By Mike Pearson, News staff

Metal halide lighting was the most probable cause of a 2009 fire at Archmill House Inc., a three-year-old fire investigation report shows.

But extensive destruction at the scene prevented fire investigator Mike Stewart from isolating the exact cause of the Aug. 25, 2009 fire that devastated the architectural millwork business in the Ancaster Business Park.  Hamilton Community News received the fire investigation report this month following a lengthy freedom of information request into the blaze.

Archmill has since rebuilt and resumed operations on the same site.

In his report, Stewart examines four possible ignition sources but is unable to isolate the exact cause of the blaze. The fire’s ignition source is listed as undetermined.

The fire was found to have originated on top of stored material in the building’s south storage room, before spreading to the roof area.

Stewart notes that metal halide lighting was located above storage racks that housed flammable material.  Halide lighting contains gases under pressure and a structural failure of the arc tube can result in an explosion of the bulbs causing hot materials to fall onto flammable stored items, his report notes.

“Even though this is the most probable cause of the fire I was not able to examine any of the lights in the storage area to confirm this,” Stewart stated.

Stewart’s report indicates no intruder was detected, which rules out arson. An intrusion alarm was received by Hamilton Police at 2:05 a.m., but Stewart’s investigation shows no one entered the building before the fire. Alarms were instead activated by smoke and heat.

The fire’s origin, coupled with the prohibition of smoking inside the building led Stewart to rule out a cause of careless smoking.

While examining the building’s interior, Stewart examined electrical wires that ran along the roof line to a storage area.

“It is possible that while placing material on the upper racks of the storage area the electrical wires may have been struck,” Stewart states in the report. “It is highly improbable that there would be an electrical short in the area of the stored material as the wires were encased in the metal conduit but due to the extreme destruction in the area I was not able to examine any of the materials or conduit to rule this out.”

Stewart’s report shows the building had a posted safety plan.

An estimated 70 firefighters and 18 trucks were needed to contain the flames, which sparked widespread air quality concerns and a fish kill in an adjacent storm water catch basin.

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