The community of Douro is in shock after an early morning fire destroyed the historic P.G. Towns and Sons General Store building.
Firefighters received the call around 1:30 a.m. Friday when a neighbour called 911 to report seeing flames.
Douro-Dummer Fire Chief Chuck Pedersen says no one was injured as the building was fully engulfed when volunteer firefighters arrived on scene with flames coming out of the front windows.
“We believe the origin of the fire is in the west end of the building,” Pedersen told CHEX News at the scene.
County Road 8 remains close as firefighters remain on scene and an excavator will be removing debris.
Douro-Dummer Township Mayor J. Murray Jones learned of the blaze when staff with The Morning Show on CHEX called him for comment.
He appeared on the show and said the loss of the building is devastating for the township just east of Peterborough.
“I can express our sorrow and numbness,” he said. “The store has been symbolic – it’s not just a building – doesn’t matter what was in it. It was symbolic of everyday life in a small, rural municipality. It embodied everything we believed in – in love and working together and neighbours.”
Roughly 30 firefighters were fighting the stubborn blaze throughout the night, with the cold weather presenting challenges, said Pedersen.
“We’ve had lines freeze up you have to keep water flowing all the time or it freezes nozzles so we’ve had those challenges we’ve had to overcome,” said Pedersen. “Some of our taker shuttle vehicles and some of the valves are freezing up on those as well as you dump water”
J.MURRAY JONES ON THE MORNING SHOW ON CHEX:
Fighters were expected to remain on scene all day.
The cause of fire has not been determined. A damage estimate has yet to be determined. The Office of the Fire Marshal has been contacted but it’s not yet known if an official will attend.
The store has been a landmark for more than 125 years, run by four generations of the Towns family. In 1892, P.G. Towns opened his initial business on Hunter Street in Peterborough but then moved back to Douro and moved his store to his native community in 1896.
The general store closed in September 2016 after 124 years in business. It reopened in June 2017 as Towns & Leahy Mercantile and Deli, offering roasted meats from Leahy Stock farms, sandwiches and other goods.
Jim Holland worked at the store for nine years.
“It was certainly, what you would call a gathering place,” he said. “I hope we still come together… we’re going to miss having something like that here . It was down, but Nancy (Towns) and Bernhard (Leahy) did a great job bringing back to life the old part of the store.”
The store was featured in a documentary “Towns End” by local filmmate Meghan Murphy.
“This won’t break the spirit of the Douro-Dummer people,” said Jones. “I can guaranteed you that. They’ve got faith; they’ve got hope; they’ve got love. We’ll pull through.”