Firefighters battle blaze in former Stratford Antique Warehouse
The London Free Press

Highway 7/8 was closed from C.H. Meier Boulevard to Perth Road 110 Sunday evening while firefighters battled a fire at the former Stratford Antique Warehouse.

The fire in the large building that used to be filled with dozens of vendors was reported just after 3 p.m. The business closed in late May and the building was being renovated.

“I don’t know how it started yet,” building manager Tracey McKone said at the scene. “Luckily, the workers weren’t in this week. They had been doing some electrical. … There wasn’t a whole lot in the building, thank God. I can’t imagine if this was a month ago when we had all the vendors here. … It could have been a lot worse because they were open seven days a week.”

Firefighters from the Shakespeare, Sebringville, and Stratford fire departments continued to battle the blaze on Forest Road in Stratford’s east end well into the evening.

Perth East fire Chief Bill Hunter said firefighters thought they had a handle on the blaze by early evening, but a sudden change in wind direction pushed the flames and smoke forward through the building, intensifying the blaze.

Shortly before 7 p.m., firefighters called in a backhoe to take down a portion of the building’s southeast wall.

“We brought in a local contractor with an excavator to pull down some of the building at the back so we can get in,” Hunter said. “There’s several void spaces, so we want to get some water in and see if we can finally get this fire put out.”

The cause of the fire is still unknown, and Hunter said he would likely be back on scene Monday to continue the investigation.

“We will be contacting the Ontario Fire Marshall, just based on the estimated value lost,” Hunter said.

As of Sunday evening, no injuries were reported as a result of the fire.

“A big thanks to some of the local businesses,” he continued. “Domino’s is sending us some pizza, no charge, and Sobeys has delivered some Gatorade.”

The City of Stratford also provided a bus that firefighters used as a recovery station to cool off and rehydrate.

The 2,000-square-metre building is on five hectares just south of Highway 7/8.

Stratford Antique Warehouse closed on Victoria Day. Owners Bill and Shirley Long sold the business, which they built up after buying a former Beaver Lumber location in 2002 and converting it into a showroom with 150 vendor and showcase spaces. They added store counters, display cabinets and weigh scales from the former Budd feed store in downtown Stratford, along with a 135-kilogram antique brass cash register, to give the warehouse a general store look.

The warehouse was open seven days a week, drawing vendors and customers from across Southwestern Ontario. The couple said they planned to continue to run their self-storage business behind the warehouse.

There was no indication as of late Sunday evening that the fire would spread to the neighbouring storage units.

Though the building’s owner arrived on scene during the fire, he told the Beacon Herald he wasn’t ready to comment on the matter publicly.

The highway reopened around 9:30 p.m.

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