Article & images by Al Rivett
The brick walls of what remained of the Golden Rooster restaurant were reduced to rubble Monday morning as investigators with the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office combed through the debris for clues as to what started the blaze in downtown Colborne Friday evening.
An excavator from Fidelity construction company was at the 5 Toronto St. site to knock down the remaining structure left behind after the devastating fire to the heritage building, which has been part of the downtown streetscape since it was reportedly built in the 1850s.
The Northumberland OPP, in a press release, has deemed the fire as “suspicious and is being investigated as so.”
Cramahe Township’s acting fire chief Bruce Greatrix, who was on-site late Monday morning, told Cramahe Now that because the three-storey building was a total loss, it’s difficult to ascertain what caused the fire. He noted the mandate of the Ontario Fire Marshall’s office was invoked to determine the cause, if foul play was involved, and because of the high dollar amount of the damage.
“We just don’t know what the cause is, so (the Fire Marshal’s Office) is here to help,” said interim Fire Chief Greatrix. “They arrived on Saturday and they don’t know how long it’s going to take them to dig through the wreckage.
“There are no preliminary findings. Because it was a total-loss fire it makes the investigation more challenging.”
He believes the fire damage was more than $500,000. There were no injuries reported.
Greatrix said the fire started at roughly 6 p.m. and when Cramahe fire crews arrived on the scene the fire was fully involved. The Brighton fire department responded along with Trent Hills fire department, which arrived with an aerial truck to battle the blaze from above. The Alnwick-Haldimand department was placed on standby in case another call came in during the evening.
He noted upon arriving at the scene, he was confident the fire could be contained to the restaurant and not spread to any of the surrounding buildings, including the Township of Cramahe Town Hall.
“The firefighters worked hard to keep the fire from spreading. I wasn’t concerned (about fire spread) when I arrived on the scene. It was totally involved when we arrived. We checked the embers and kept checking Town Hall to make sure it was safe. I wasn’t overly concerned with exposures.”
He noted fire crews remained on the scene until around midnight to ensure the fire was completely extinguished, with the OPP securing the scene into Saturday morning.
Although some social media posts suggested the Cramahe fire crews took an inordinate amount of time to arrive at the fire scene on Friday night, Greatrix says he was aware of social media comments but didn’t know their exact details.
“We respond to a call and that’s what we do,” he explained. “When we arrive, we do what we do best and put the fire out.”
He noted a witness relayed to him that when he arrived at the Colborne LCBO outlet that’s adjacent to the Golden Rooster restaurant there was no fire. Upon leaving the LCBO five minutes later, the witness observed fire shooting out every window and on every level of the restaurant.
Investigators from the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office, the Northumberland OPP Crime Unit and Central Region Forensics continue their investigation.
Anyone who witnessed this fire before emergency services arrived is asked to contact the Northumberland Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police at (613) 475-1313, should you wish to remain anonymous you can contact the Peterborough/Northumberland Crime Stoppers at 1 (800) 222-8477 (TIPS).