Rubble and the old cement walls are all that remain of Napanee, Ont.’s Memorial Centre which was the home of the Lennox Agricultural Society.
Police say they are treating the fire as suspicious in part because of another, fire this one in a garage in Yarker.
“There was another structure fire around the same time last night in the early morning hours. That was in Stone Mills Township; both (are) being treated as suspicious,” said Lennox and Addington OPP Const. David Yome.
Police didn’t comment on specific evidence that the the two fires are connected, but the Yarker fire happened in the garage of a member of the Napanee Agricultural Society administration.
The destruction of the Society’s headquarters on the same night may spark suspicion of more than a coincidence.
The former Napanee Memorial Centre was built in 1955 and served as the community’s hockey rink until 2004. Most recently, it was the home to the area’s only rollerskating rink.
Aside from its walls, the building was made almost entirely of wood, with the fire making short work of the inside.
“As we opened the door, we were overwhelmed to see the flames, way, way high. They were bursting and crackling. We could feel it in our house, the heat. That’s how hot it was,” said Frances Garrah, who lives in the neighbourhood.
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The Napanee fire department says the building is a complete write off, with an early damage estimate of well over a million dollars.
“This used to be a skating rink back in its day. Many Napanee folks will remember lacing up their skates for the first time in the old arena. It didn’t take long for it to become a fully involved structure. At that point, it became an aerial assault with the three aerial devices that we had,” said Napanee Fire Chief Bill Hammond.
The Napanee fire department has yet to determine how the fire here started but police are also interested in whether it, or the garage blaze near Yarker, were deliberately set and not just a coincidence.
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