July 8, 1940 Pakenham’s main business block was this morning reduced to a mass of smouldering ruins when the worst fire in the history of the village caused damage estimated at between $60,000 1 and $70,000. The buildings destroyed were five business places and two residences. Two other homes were badly damaged and the heaviest loser was Mr. James Cox, whose three-storey stone store and residence had been a landmark in Pakenham for decades.
Losses in Conflagration: The victims of the conflagration and their estimated losses were: James Cox, general merchant, $25,000, with insurance of $8,-000. Preston Burgess, merchant, and Bell Telephone Exchange, $10,000, partially insured. Alex. Lesage, merchant, $2,-000, insurance $1,000. L. A. Mayne, store and residence, $10,000, partially covered by insurance. Post office, $2,000. fully covered. Isaac Smith, residence, $5,000, partially covered. Mrs. Andrew Stewart, residence, $1,000, fully covered.
The fire was first noticed about 11.30 p.m. Daylight Saving Time, by William Jordan, whose place of business is directly across the street from the Mayne store. He had just driven into the village when he noticed flames in the upper story of the rear of L. A. Mayne’s grocery and confection ery store. There was no person in the store at the time and Mr. Jordan promptly sounded a general alarm and Pakenham’s volunteer firemen did what little they could under the circumstances, but the building in which the fire started was of frame construction as were the two other buildings adjoining on the north.
A southwest wind carried the flames quickly toward the Cox store and to some sheds in the rear. It looked for a time as if the entire northerly part of the village on the east side of Main street would be swept and Mr. Cox promptly telephoned to Almonte, Carleton Place and Arnprior for fire fighting equipment and men. Ten men with the new booster pumper from Almonte were quickly on the scene but the fire had by this time raced clear around the large Cox building and was enveloping the remaining buildings in the block on the north side, both of them frame and occupied by Mr. Preston Burgess as grocery and telephone exchange and by Mr. Alex. Lesage, boot and shoe merchant.
At 3.30 o’clock Chief Harry Houston of the Almonte firemen declared the fire under control and neither the Carleton Place nor Arnprior equipment was used. The former could not get their heavy engine loaded and transported in time and the Arnprior machinery was not suitable for pumping water any great distance. But both brigades had . a complement of men, on hand and they handled a difficult situation efficiently. To the Almonte firemen was accorded the major credit for confining the blaze within the one block. They made the trip in record time, ran their new pumper down to the river edge, a distance of more than 1,000 feet, saved the Mayne and Stewart houses from utter destruction and kept the flames from jumping to frame buildings across the street.
There was general acclaim for the Almonte equipment and the manner in which it was handled. Fire Chief Injured Chief James Barber of the Carleton Place fire brigade was severely injured while endeavoring to load the engine at the railway depot, but, he was the, only casualty. Hugh Tetlock ‘ look over and captained the men from the Junction Town, while Councillor L. J. Gavin, chairman of the fire and light committee, also went along to give what assistance he could. They, with the Arnprior firemen under Chief W. G. Beatty, worked constantly until six o’clock this morning. No explanation was offered as to how the fire started. The upper part of the Mayne store was formerly used as a residence, but it was for the most part a storeroom; there were neither matches nor inflammable materials kept there, thus the origin of the blaze remains, for the present a complete mystery.
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Sun andScreamin’ Mamas (USA)Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place.