11 Jan 17

January 11, 2017

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Devastating Casselman fire

A fire destroyed the building at 727 Principale St. in Casselman the afternoon of Wed., Jan. 4, after an episode of freezing rain, which may have been the cause of the downed electrical line, which sparked the fire. The building housed RayJans Windows and Doors and four apartment buildings. No humans were hurt but a few pets died. Vetter photo

Fire destroys business and leaves 10 people homeless

Candice Vetter

Villager Staff

CASSELMAN — A devastating fire on Casselman’s Principale St. destroyed the branch location of RayJans Windows and Doors and left 10 residents of the upstairs’ apartments homeless on Wed., Jan. 4.

The fire started during one of the region’s stormiest days so far this winter, with freezing rain, snow and later high winds and falling temperatures. A bystander at the scene the next day said it looked like a live wire had hit a sign on the building, which blew out the transformer and started the fire about 3:30 p.m. The power on the street went out at the same time.

Employees and residents all exited safely, although some pets could not be saved, due to the speed at which the fire spread. Police and firefighters were there quickly, but were hampered by the severe weather conditions. A firefighter on the scene said conditions were terrible and the work was very cold. The building, which was at 727 Principale St. (at the corner of Cartier St.) and owned by Mazen Kassis, was a pile of rubble by the next morning.

RayJans had only opened its Casselman location, its second, in May. It is headquartered in Cornwall. On Jan. 5, RayJans thanked landlord Kassis and announced on its Facebook page that it would reopen soon at 699 Principale St. “We are working really hard to re-open as soon as possible,” it said. “Our goal is to be a success in the great Casselman community. Thank you for all your support. Stay tuned for our Grand Opening Event.”

Families in neighbouring buildings were evacuated but returned home the next day. The residents upstairs, which was reported by Gilles Desnoyers of Comptoir Populaire Deguire (a non-profit organization set up to help families in emergencies) as being eight or nine adults and several children, were left with almost nothing. Fire Chief Alain Ménard called Desnoyers about 11 p.m. the night of the fire and Desnoyers opened up the “store,” the charity’s storage location at 653 St. Isidore St. in Casselman, so the residents could choose clothing. On Saturday afternoon, the organization and firefighters met to start a campaign to help the residents. That day, Casselman businesses, No Frills (across the street from the fire), Jean Coutu and Giant Tiger had presented gift certificates for hundreds of dollars each to the residents, and were also collecting money on their behalf. Giant Tiger said it had $1,700, said Desnoyers. Small items can be bought and/or left for the families there as well.

Comptoir Populaire Deguire will also be collecting household goods and will be storing them until the residents have found new places to live. Anyone wanting to donate larger items can call Desnoyers directly at 613-863-5654. Clothing can be dropped off at the store at 653 St. Isidore St. or see facebook.com/ comptoirpopulairedeguire. A bank account for donations has also been set up at the Caisse Populaire in Casselman.

The Comptoir Populaire Deguire was started over 40 years ago by a firefighter and has about 40 volunteers. Its mandate is to help fire victims and other disaster victims in the short term.

Several other arrangements are also underway to collect goods and money. Tracey Earlam and Junior Marier had a narrow escape and lost even their identification. They have a page www.gofundme.com/ casselman-fire, where Earlam says, “This all happened so fast and it’s unbelievable that this happened, especially an awful way to start off a new year. Any donation would be appreciated to help us start over.”

Val Lavoie, a friend of Nancy Barnes and her teen son, has set up a page for them at www.gofundme.com/ 379hp9c.