The worst fire in a long time, damage estimated at $7 million
Text from the Courrier de Saint-Hyacinthe , Wednesday, August 5, 1981, page 4.
For those who walk in downtown Saint-Hyacinthe the last few days, and there are many, the scene of desolation that reigns in the quadrilateral formed of Des Cascades, Saint-Antoine and Hotel-Dieu, St. Anne and St. Francis seems unreal but nothing can relive the intensity of the fire of August 2, when in a few quick hours, the destructive element, ignited by a criminal hand, would reduce to rubble no less than twenty stores and dwelling houses.
It was around 5 pm that the first alarm was sounded and when the first firefighters arrived on the scene, it was obvious that they would have to fight a major disaster already, flames crackled on both sides of the Sainte-Anne, at the height of the brewery of the old Saint-Antoine.
That is why, from the first moment, the possibility of a criminal hand was not ruled out, rightly elsewhere as it was to be demonstrated later.
This is also why he was called Sorel including firefighters who hurried towards Saint-Hyacinthe with a scale of 100 feet, as well as those of Saint-Hilaire, with a scale of 75 feet.
The flame intensity was such that the windows would burst under the effect of heat on the Rue Sainte-Anne. In addition, high voltage forced firefighters to exercise caution to avoid electrocution. The time required to remove power would have seemed significant to certain risks and were taken by the magnitude of the disaster.
With the arrival of the volunteer firefighters of Saint-Damase Saint-Dominique, La Presentation, St. Rosalie and St. Thomas Aquinas, not less than one hundred firefighters were on hand with a major equipment.
A very large crowd was also on hand and special measures had to be adopted so that everything happend in conditions as safe as possible. One of the first arriving on the scene was to evacuate the house and it is thanks to this intervention no lives were reported. At most, two firefighters were injured by smoke and burn.
Lit from the back of the brewery in Old San Antonio probably in the debris of a house demolition, the fire crossed the Rue Sainte-Anne, in the direction of the market, while continuing its destructive work between rue Sainte -Anne and Hotel-Dieu.
Many questions remain unanswered at the time of writing, while two individuals appearing in connection with the fire, including the fact that the fire is found on both sides of the Rue Sainte-Anne as quickly. Answers should be obtained during the investigation that will follow.
It only took a few hours for the flames leave behind rubble and millions of gallons of water were dumped. More than forty hours later, firefighters continued to stir debris with a backhoe to water possible homes. The destructive element seems to have been stopped in its course by the arches of the house Laflamme (at least on the side of the Rue Saint-Antoine), while elsewhere the work of firefighters focused on protecting a perimeter to contain flames.
(Translation may contain errors)
©2016 Linda Sullian-Simpson