River Valley property explodes, owner suspects foul play


At roughly 2 a.m.  Saturday morning, July 16, the small village of River Valley was rocked by an explosion which utterly destroyed the storage barn located behind the Magasin Dupras. According to initial reports, the fire was burning for some time before the explosion occurred, but wasn’t called in until 1:44 in the morning. The son of one of the owners estimates about $170K in losses, as the entire contents were destroyed, with no compensating insurance coverage. 

The owner of the building is Chris Donkers. His ownership is in partnership with a friend. He says he purchased the property on April 1, 2021, the store and manufactory that belonged to Hector Giroux, now deceased. One of the buildings houses apartment dwellings, while the one that burnt was being used for dry storage. That building was the former manufactory for monuments and curling stones. 

While the details remained sketchy on Tuesday, it was because a large apartment fire in Sturgeon Falls consumed the fire department’s attention and no-one from the WNFS was available to take calls. Donkers spoke to The Tribune and shared that there are two suspects, local individuals who cannot be named but are known for less than savoury behaviour in the community and who were previously seen hanging about the structure at night. He was very frank, “There’s a suspicion that two local guys were stealing gas and hiding behind the barn, and something went wrong. There was an explosion and it got out of hand and they couldn’t contain it. I woke up at 1:45 and what awoke me was a big bang – What the hell was that?! I got up out of bed a couple of seconds later.”

Donkers said that the first firefighter on the scene related that the fire had been going on for some time. “It was pretty intense. I tried to put a garden hose, to water on that building (points to a small outbuilding behind the Magasin Dupras), and I just had shorts on and had to water myself down because I was getting burnt just from the heat off this place. I have a whole new respect for fire fighters. They might have been a bit late, but considering where they are and where they had to come from, they started up and contained [the fire]. What can you do? You just need a bigger hose. They controlled it, the surroundings, and put it out when it burnt down.”

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