Fire crews still on scene of St. Catharines fire, investigation into cause begins

CKTB - NEWS - Welland House Hotel Fire St. Catharines July 12, 2021

An investigation is underway to determine the cause of this morning's fire at a historical building in downtown St. Catharines.

A team from the Ontario Fire Marshal's office has been called it to find out what sparked the blaze that destroyed the Welland House Hotel on Ontario Street.

The team consists of two investigators, a supervisor and a manager.

Fire crews are still dumping water on parts of the building now, with discussions beginning to determine what parts of the building can be taken down to reach embers still smoldering deep within the building.

Fire Chief Jeff McCormick says they are not worried about the fire spreading beyond the building now, but they are concerned about potential structural collapse.

All six St. Catharines fire stations have been involved in today's battle with additional help from Thorold and Pelham fire departments.

At the peak of the fight, approximately 40 firefighters and 10 emergency vehicles were on scene.

McCormick says crews may be on site all night and into the morning. "If we bring the building down in a controlled manner, that takes time. So we won't be rushing anything to bring this to a quick conclusion - we'll want to make sure that we can do it as safely as possible and at the same time do it in a manner that gives us the best opportunity to determine the origin of the fire and ultimately the cause of the fire." McCormick says they may need to take down part of the building to reach hot spots that cannot currently be accessed.

As of 3:30 p.m. Monday afternoon, representatives for the city of St. Catharines have not announced an end to the shelter in place for the Yates Street area.

So far no injuries have been reported and the building was considered to be vacant, but McCormick adds, "Somebody had to be at the building at some point in time because there isn't anything in the way of an ignition source in the building."

The St. Catharines Museum is collecting memories and sharing historic photographs of Welland House calling it a 'tangible connection to many different threads weaving the history of St. Catharines together.'

It is a remnant of salt-spring tourism, offered paid work for Freedom Seekers, and hosted the 1st Girl Guide troop in North America alongside many other community organizations.

You can hear an interview with Chief McCormick by clicking here.