Breslau home under construction explodes

Woolwich Fire Dept. deems cause to be “undetermined”

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Still under construction, a Breslau house was reduced to rubble last week in a fire that caused damages pegged at $1 million.

The structure on Woolwich Street South was still being built and unoccupied at the time of the fire, which broke out in the early morning hours of November 23. No injuries were reported, though a neighbouring home was damaged to the tune of $50,000 by the heat from the blaze.

The cause of the fire was deemed “undetermined,” though Woolwich officials ruled out any criminality.

“It was around 3:30 (a.m.), and both my wife and I just woke up with a start,” said next door neighbour Dan Battler, whose home was damaged by the heat. “It shook our house. It was a big explosion in the garage, I guess – I think that’s what happened. It woke us up, and we went running around our house to see what happened first. Then she looked out the window and saw the flames, so we phoned 911 right away.”

Woolwich firefighters spent the early hours combating blaze, and by late morning were going through the rubble of the burnt-out structure.

An investigation failed to identify the cause of the fire due to the extent of the damage, said Woolwich fire chief Dale Martin. A request for assistance was made to the Office of the Fire Marshal, but the provincial body declined to take part in the investigation.

“So what we did, we sent them pictures and they reviewed the pictures and declined to attend,” said Martin. “They said because of the damage, they probably couldn’t determine the cause anyways – they never did show up. So we just went with our investigation, that it was ‘undetermined,’ the cause.”

The inconclusive results of the investigation were corroborated by Waterloo Regional Police at the scene.

“They were there too, and they had agreed with our findings at that time,” said Martin, adding that criminal behaviour was not suspected. “From what we know, from all the interviews we did, we didn’t find it to be of suspicious nature.”

The house, which was under construction and unoccupied at the time of the fire, was on Woolwich Street South, between Shields and Berlin streets.

“It was totally under construction, so nobody in the house, no hydro to the house,” he added. The home had no furniture either, limiting the damage to just the structure.

Upon arriving at the scene, firefighters focused their efforts on preventing the flames from spreading to neighbouring properties. The fire warped the siding on Battlers’ house and shattered windows facing the burning building, but the home was otherwise left relatively unscathed.

“When we got here, [the fire] was out through the roof already. The whole place was full of fire,” said Martin of the destroyed building. “There was nothing left to save.”

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