Sunday, October 17, 2021

Massive blaze consumes boat shed, blocks highway

  • June 23 2021
  • By Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative reporter    

MARIE JOSEPH – In one of the Eastern Shore’s largest and most dramatic fires in recent years, more than 30 responders battled searing heat and black smoke along a section of Highway 7, near Marie Joseph on June 15 where traffic was rerouted for hours.

Volunteer fire crews from Port Dufferin, Moser River, Ecum Secum, Liscomb and Sherbrooke arrived at the scene – a commercial boat shed at the entrance to the wharf of the Harbour Authority of Marie Joseph – around noon and kept the blaze from spreading to nearby structures until about 4 p.m., when it was finally extinguished.

“It was what we call a fully defensive fire, which means the structure was totally involved,” said John Lowe, District Chief for District 5, Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency. “It was deemed unsafe for us to do a tactical interior attack against it. It was a very heavy fire load for this area, and nothing was salvageable.”

The blaze destroyed the building owned by local resident Clem Fleet – and several boats it contained – and charred an electricity pole. The wharf was not damaged and neither were the MV Caruso or Craig Trans, the two salvage wrecks pulled up on shore there.

Although the fire was “very hot”, Lowe said no one was injured. “The fishermen [who were there] were all okay.”

Eyewitness Tom Bond of Moser River, who was at the scene before responders arrived, described a veritable conflagration.

“My wife and I were checking the condition of the road to Fancy’s Beach, when I saw thick black smoke across the sky to the west,” he said. “But when I reached the highway, it was completely black, like petroleum products or tires burning and the rolling flames were sizzling. The fireball was shooting through the smoke, rolling over the road. It appeared that, with the wind, it would scorch your car, if you tried to go through.

“Eventually, we heard the first sirens of the firetrucks coming from Ecum Secum and a local [resident] jumped in a transfer truck to block the road, preventing risk-takers from driving through the smoke. RCMP arrived from Sherbrooke and took over.

“While [firefighters] were fighting the fire, you could hear each burst of steam as the water was being sprayed on by each department responding on the other side of the smoke and wind. You could see the hose team defensively spraying the warehouse building,” Bond added.

According to Halifax District RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Lisa Croteau, the Nova Scotia Fire Marshall’s Office – which attended the scene at the request of police, along with Nova Scotia Power and Emergency Health Services – is now investigating the cause of the fire, but “it is not believed to be suspicious, at this time.”