Firefighters from the Hawkesbury and L’Orignal stations responded to a call after 3 p.m., May 23, about a fire at La Marché Lacroix, at the corner of James Street and Regent Street. When the fire trucks arrived, the building was already belching out thick clouds of smoke.
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Le feu détruit une partie de l'histoire commerciale de Hawkesbury
“It was so thick, we could not see the front of the building,” said Hawkesbury Fire Chief Daniel Gascon during a later interview. “We had to close off Main Street and McGill Street to traffic because of the smoke.”
After making sure that no one was inside the building, fire fighters followed a “surround and drown” strategy to contain the fire and keep it from spreading a neighbouring three-storey apartment building.
“The fire was raging up from the basement to the ground floor,” said Chief Gascon.
The fire was extinguished by the early evening. An excavator was called in to dig up the site so that fire fighters could deal with any smouldering “hot spots” that remained. The fire site was declared “dead” a short time after 2 a.m.
The cause of the fire will remain unknown because the excavation work destroyed any traces of where the origin point was. Both the fire department and the OPP agreed that it was not a suspicious fire and are leaving any further investigation to the insurance company. A preliminary estimate of the damage is $1.5 million, including the building, the equipment inside, and whatever store inventory was inside.
Commercial heritage landmark
La Marché Lacroix had been part of Hawkesbury’s downtown commercial core since 1935. It remained a family business until the mid-1990s when it was sold. Stephane Jeaurond, the current owner, bought the business in 2000 and made a point of keeping the Lacroix family name as the store’s official business name.
“That was very important to me,” he said during an interview May 25. “The Lacroix name was very well-known here. This was one of the first self-serve stores in Hawkesbury.”
Jeaurond noted that until the Lacroix family began their business, all grocery stores and most other businesses in the town still operated in the traditional manner. Shoppers came into a store and stood at a broad counter. Behind the counter stood the store staff, who would take down details of a customer’s order and then go find the item or items wanted from any one of several sets of shelves in the back of the store.
When La Marché Lacroix opened, shoppers were able to browse the shelves themselves and collect the items they wanted to buy.
Jeaurond would like to rebuild, but that will depend on the final insurance report, and also a review of the town’s current regulations on commercial building designs. He expressed thanks for all the community support he and his staff have received, and he thanked the two fire departments for their quick response.
“They did a good job,” he said, looking at the heat-warped siding of the three-storey apartment building next door. “This was a big loss for me, but it could have been worse.”