Fire destroys three apartments, leave mother and son in dire situation

A fire rips through an apartment building at 930 Quesnel Rd. on Dec. 6. Photo by: Dave Pilon.

A devastating fire destroyed the main building of the former Sea Gull Lodge – now an apartment building – at 930 Quesnel Road on the Sturgeon River, this past Monday, Dec. 6. 

West Nipissing Fire Chief Richard Maranda said nothing could be saved. “The main building is completely destroyed. There were three apartments [in the building]. Nobody was inside. One of the owners was working in a cabin beside it and he smelled some smoke. He went to investigate and there was quite a bit of smoke and he could not make entry.” Maranda said one of the owners had an apartment and the other two were rented out. One rental had one occupant, and the other had two occupants – a mother and son. 

“We had a portable pump for the river and we also had a tanker hauling water,” said Chief Maranda. “The fire was called in shortly after 4:30 [p.m.]. It was the old lodge, and it’s completely damaged, not liveable, not fixable, a complete loss. We’re still investigating it. We can’t actually make entry right now because it’s not structurally sound, so it will be difficult to pinpoint the cause… It had been renovated a few times.” Maranda added that the owner was insured, and one of the tenants had tenant insurance, but the other was uninsured.  All the tenants were adults; no children were involved. However, the chief reported that two pets, a cat and dog, perished in the fire. “When we got there, it was fully involved, there was fire coming out of windows and doors and it was impossible to get in there. I believe the owner tried to go upstairs and retrieve the dog, but there was too much smoke and he had to retreat.”

The fire crews were still there mid-Tuesday as there were still hot spots. Chief Maranda said the roof collapsed, covering the fire underneath. “There’s still smoldering … we are trying to get access to it, it’s pretty hard. If it could burn through, we could water it down, but it’s not burning through – it’s pretty stubborn. It’s under the roof line, between the roof and floor … and we have a bit of ice there too. That doesn’t help.” The rescue team was on site, as well as 23 fire fighters, pumper, tank, with five hoses going. “We put tons of water on it. Right now, it’s dangerous around there because there’s lots of ice around. …The roads weren’t that nice last night either.” 

Maranda said the victims are currently staying with friends or family, but “It’s not a good start to the Christmas season.” The fire department was able to keep the fire to the one building, but “Unfortunately it was way too gone before we got there.” Maranda said that preliminary evidence seems to indicate the fire began on the ground floor. “According to the owner, when he went in, he mentioned the fire was below, on the bottom floor.” Maranda indicated the owners of the building are Niko and Sebastien Toulouse of T&T Insulation. “Unfortunately, there was one tenant who had no insurance, but he has relatives in town.”

Neighbour Dave Pilon was working outside when he smelled smoke. At first he thought it was a simple campfire. But then it smelled off. “I live just up the road… I was working in my garage with the door open. I could smell the fire close to 15 minutes before the fire department got there. Unfortunately, I didn’t react right away because my neighbour has fires fairly often and I assumed it was him having a fire. …After 10 minutes I thought it doesn’t smell like a normal campfire… and the snow was really blowing as well. I saw the flames from my front yard.” Pilon added that one of the occupants broke some windows to try to get the pets out and cut his hands in the process. “The ambulance did attend and patched him up.” Pilon also noted the trauma one of the victims suffered as the fire devastated his home. 

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