The early morning fire January 16 that consumed one home and damaged two neighbouring properties in St. Jacobs’ Martin Grove Village was likely caused by a portable heater, according to the Woolwich fire officials.
“We suspect it was caused by an electric portable heater, but we haven’t been able to determine that yet,” said Dennis Aldous, chief fire prevention officer for the Woolwich Fire Department. “That is based on the interview process and some of the people we have talked to.”
Some 40 firefighters from the St. Jacobs, Conestogo and Elmira stations responded to the call around 1:30 a.m. at 103 and 105 Jessie Lee Ln.
By then, all of the residents in the affected homes had managed to escape.
But several cats remained inside.
“Both units apparently had cats inside,” Aldous said. “The cats were in 103, the unit that is still standing, and once we knew they were in there we did some looking around and we found them underneath the bed.”
A 72-year old woman – a resident of 105 Jenny Lee Lane where the fire is believed to have originated – was taken to St. Mary’s General Hospital in Kitchener and treated for smoke inhalation, Woolwich Township fire chief Rick Pedersen said. She was subsequently released.
The blaze caused an estimated $200,000 in damages to the homes, Pedersen added. Fire crews remained at the scene through the night, battling the flames as well as the bitter winter weather.
“(Firefighters) did an external attack which means they fought it from the outside,” Aldous said. “They controlled the exposure, so they kept the adjacent buildings cool so that the fire wouldn’t spread any further than it had when they got there.”
With respect to the cause of the fire, he added, “Older electrical portable heaters can be a problem. Either the heater itself or the cord might not be heavy enough for the heater requires. Or, if it’s a micro-furnace type of heater, if they get knocked over sometimes they may not shut off automatically and that’s an electric element that’s touching something.”
Woolwich fire officials do not expect an investigation to be undertaken by the Ontario Fire Marshal.
To prevent fire hazards, the public is urged to ensure their portable heating units are approved by the Underwriter Laboratories of Canada and Canadian Standards Association.