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A stubborn fire at a youth drop-in centre takes time to extinguish. In the end arrests were made after the investigation pointed to arson as the cause.

December 7, 2007 
By By William McIntyre and Gary Dinkel

24It was a stubborn fire in a renovated youth drop-in centre and it was set deliberately. Fire fighters worked long and hard to darken down and extinguish this blaze. Afterward, investigators determined the fire was set deliberately and police were able to make several arrests.

It was on Dec. 28, 2005 that Kitchener Fire Dispatch received a 9-1-1 call reporting a fire on the roof of a house on Queen Street at approximately 0720 hours. The first caller reported he could see flames and smoke looking from his apartment located across the street. A first alarm assignment was dispatched sending Pump 2, Pump 5, Aerial 2, Rescue 1, and Car 23 with Platoon Chief Tim Bernier for a structure fire on Queen Street near Joseph Street.

Dispatch received three more 9-1-1 calls for the fire while trucks were responding.  None of the callers could give an exact address for the fire, but one caller said it was the "Roof" building, a youth drop-in centre.

Pump 2 Capt. Guy Burkholder reported nothing visible on arrival at 0724 hours. A minute later after conducting an initial size-up, he reported fire visible on the main floor at the rear of the structure. The large two-storey house had a two-storey addition on the rear that was well involved.


Pump 2 fire fighters pulled an attack line in the front door while the crew from Aerial 2 pulled a 4" supply line to a hydrant located just in front of the pumper. Rescue 1 fire fighters pulled a back-up line for Pump 2 and did a primary search of the entire building.

In no time, Platoon Chief Bernier pulled into a laneway behind the structure and after a quick briefing from Burkholder, assumed command of the incident. Heavy fire was showing on both floors in the rear by this time and command requested a second alarm. Pump 3, Aerial 4, and BOX 690 Canteen were dispatched to the fire at 0730 hrs. BOX 690 provides on-scene rehab for the fire service in the Kitchener-Waterloo area.

Pump 5 pulled up in front of the building and pulled a supply line from the same  hydrant Pump 2 used which was supplied by a 12" water main. Pump 5 firefighters pulled a 1.5" and 2.5" line to the rear of the building, interior crews were withdrawn and exterior crews knocked down most of the visible fire inside the structure.

Additional lines were pulled off both trucks by Pump 3 fire fighters on their arrival. Crews advanced lines back inside in hope of extinguishing the balance of the fire. Interior crews worked two lines for approximately 20 minutes.

Soon, exterior crews informed command there was visible fire above the interior crew, in the roof. Upon receiving this report command ordered all fire fighters out of the structure. Aerial 2 was set up on the E1 – E4 corner. Pump 3 caught a hydrant at Joseph and Queen Street and laid in to Aerial 2. Heavy fire vented from the rear addition's roof and structural collapse occurred approximately 15 minutes later. Aerial 2's master stream and handlines darkened down most of the visible fire.

By this time, the fire had traveled through the walls to the front building which contained lockers in the basement for street youths to secure their clothing and valuables. The attic in the front half of the house was used to store used clothing and furniture.

When Aerial 4 arrived on scene, it was assigned to the parking lot at the rear of the Bullas Travel, a business adjacent to the Roof house. The aerial was set up on the E2 – E3 corner. A 4" supply line was hand laid from Pump 5 to feed the truck. Aerial 2 fire fighters then vented the roof on the front of the building. Heavy fire blew from the vents within 10 minutes.  Master streams from Aerial 2 and Aerial 4 as well as numerous handlines from the ground were now in operation. Pump 5 could not get enough water to support Aerial 4 and the handlines. To compensate, Pump 3 laid a second supply line to Aerial 2 and relay pumped from a hydrant located at Queen and Courtland.

By noon, almost five hours into the incident, most of the flames had been dampened down. Fire fighters briefly re-entered the building around 1230 hrs to see if they could safely get at the remaining hot spots. Once inside crews quickly determined they could not get upstairs and pulled their lines back outside. Master streams and handlines were used through the afternoon to tend to hot spots that flared up. Pump 6 was called to the scene to look after fire watch with Aerial 4 and the rest of the apparatus and crews were released.

Regional police and Kitchener fire prevention inspectors worked closely to determine the cause. The fire started in the rear main floor in the kitchen. There were a number of patrons of the building who reported to investigators they had heard threats to burn the building made by a disgruntled street person recently.  Regional police detectives arrested a number of individuals in February and charged them with break and enter and arson. Damage was set at $350,000. Building inspectors have given the go-ahead to rebuild the building. 

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