AMHERST – The cause of a downtown fire that destroyed two century-old buildings and left nearly 40 homeless may never be known.
Officials from the Amherst Fire Department and the provincial fire marshal’s office concluded their investigation into the blaze at the Victorian Arms Apartments building on Friday without determining the cause.
“There was so much destruction and too much material starting at the roof and ending in the basement that there wasn’t any way to come to a conclusion as to the cause,” Chief Bill Crossman said Tuesday.
Crossman said the fire appears to have started in the ceiling of the basement of the Windsor Block, but he stressed the fire was not suspicious.
“It started in the ceiling area of the basement which allowed it to travel,” he said.
Firefighters were called to the downtown building just after 10 p.m. last Sunday. When they arrived the building, that included Dooly’s lounge on the ground floor and three floors of apartments above it, was filling with smoke. Firefighters aggressively fought the fire for several hours before the decision was made to retreat once safety became an issue.
“The problem was because the fire had travelled between floors and in walls and along pipes, and because of the size of the building and all the smoke we were pretty much doomed,” Crossman said.
The building was eventually gutted by fire overnight, while the adjoining Black Block burned on Monday afternoon.
The fire also led to extensive damage to the neighbouring Amherst Police Department, while a wall from the Windsor Block fell onto the building housing the Cumberland Early Intervention Program and a law office.
Crossman said the fire department will continue to look for information that may be out there that it wasn’t aware of.