Jeff Green | Jan 08, 2021
On Thursday night at about 10pm a fire started at McMullen Manor, a housing complex with 28 one bedroom units in Verona.
A smoke alarm alerted a resident to the fire who called it in. The first crews from South Frontenac Fire Services arrived at about 10:20pm.
“When the crews arrived several of the units in the building were fully engaged and they could see that the fire had spread to the attic,” said a tired Darcy Knott, South Frontenac Fire Chief, when contacted from the site late Friday morning (January 8)
Working with the OPP, South Frontenac crews determined that all of the residents of the Manor were safe.
“The fire was very aggressive,” said Knott, and after surveying the perimeter crews began attacking it from the exterior, the goal being to put it out as quickly as possible, making sure it did not spread to any neighbouring buildings.
Members of the Verona Free Methodist Church, which is located nearby, quickly opened the church and put coffee on. Residents from McMullen Manor took refuge in the church, and when 2 officials from the Kingston Frontenac Housing Corporation, including Executive Director Mary-Lyn Cousins Brame, arrived on the scene, they met the residents there.
McMullen Manor was owned and operated by the housing corporation, which manages subsidized housing properties for residents of the City of Kingston and the County of Frontenac.
Pastor Kathy Casement, of the Free Methodist Church (FMC), arrived on the scene at about 11:30. “Everything became very organised very quickly,” she said. “There was support from the housing corporation, victims services, and the OPP. Some of our church members were even able to bring out some clothes out from the Style Revival [the used closing store run out of the church] for people who had nothing to wear. Most of the residents from McMullen Manor were in shock. They were sitting quietly, staring off into space.”
A number of the residents were picked up by family and friends from the Verona vicinity, and some ended up being driven to Kingston, where they are staying in a hotel with Kingston Frontenac Housing covering their immediate expenses.
“By about 2:30am, everyone had left, and we closed up and went home. It all happened really quickly, when you think about it,” she said. Three of the residents at the Manor are members of the Verona Free Methodist, and church members are committed to supporting them, as well as all of those who lost all of their belongings, and their housing, in a matter of minutes.
Fire crews worked all night on the fire, which was still smouldering on Thursday morning.
Five South Frontenac Fire Services Stations responded to the incident, consisting of upwards of 50 volunteer fire fighters and 17 apparatus. An Aerial Truck from Kingston Fire & Rescue and an extra tanker from Stone Mills Fire Department were also dispatched to assist.
“A lot of water was required, especially for the aerial truck, and it required quite an effort in terms of water shuttle for our department, but we kept the water coming,” said Knott.
Some of the water was brought in water flowing under the from the bridge on Desert Lake Road.
Road 38 (Verona Main Street) was closed through Verona all night, with a detour using Hinchinbrooke and Desert Lake Roads, but re-opened at 7am.
“We did not want the detour to be in place in the morning, with all the commuter traffic coming through” said Knott.
There was no loss of life in the fire but one resident has been admitted to KGH as a result of injuries sustained in the fire, and a number of pets perished.
“On behalf of Council and our community, I want to extend my sincere condolences to the residents of McMullen manor who lost their homes in this terrible tragedy. I also want to convey our appreciation to all South Frontenac Fire & Rescue (SFFR) personnel, as well as our neighbouring fire departments in Kingston and Stone Mills that came to assist last night,” said South Frontenac Mayor Ron Vandewal. “While it is devastating to know many lost their homes last night, I am thankful that there was no loss of life and grateful to the Red Cross, Victim Services, the Verona Free Methodist Church, Frontenac Paramedics and the Frontenac Detachment of the OPP for providing support to our residents during this difficult time.”
There has been an out-pouring of support from community members for the residents. Over 100 people have contacted the Kingston Frontenac Housing Corporation asking how they can be of help.
“It is more helpful to provide a cash donations than clothes or other items,” said Pastor Casement of the VFM Church.
Support for residents is being co-ordinated by the Kingston Frontenac Housing Corporation.
“It is best to call 546-5591 and ask for Lori,” she added.
Investigators from the Ontario Fire Marshall's Office arrived on the scene late on Friday morning to begin the job of determining the cause of the fire.
Fire Chief Knott said that, while the cause of the fire is unknown at this time, it is not considered a suspicious fire but added that it is the job of the Fire Marshall's office to make that determination.
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