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‘Like a war zone’: Residents near St. Catharines told to stay indoors due to smoke from large fire

Fire crews responded to a major fire at Pioneer Flower Farms in St. Catherines Friday night.
Fire crews responded to a major fire at Pioneer Flower Farms in St. Catherines Friday night. Joseph Burd / Global News

Residents in a rural area west of St. Catharines were asked to avoid the outdoors because of thick smoke from a fire that began Friday night.

Firefighters from St. Catharines battled the large blaze overnight and into Saturday morning near Pioneer Flower Farms just off of Seventh Street and Highway 77.

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Niagara Regional Police spokesperson Stephanie Sabourin told Global News that police became involved just after 10:00 p.m. on Friday to deal with traffic control around the area of the fire.

St. Catharines Fire and Emergency Services confirmed departments from Thorold, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Pelham, and Lincoln joined in the effort to battle the fire after they received a call around 11 p.m. Friday night.

More than 27 vehicles and 100 firefighters were a part of the firefight, according to Acting Fire Chief Jeff McCormick.

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McCormick said the fire originally started in one of the greenhouses, eventually spreading across the grass and into a bush that caused a significant bush fire.

Additionally, the blaze consumed a number of migrant workers’ residential buildings. No injuries have been reported.

“The complex is so large that our water streams cannot reach the middle of the complex,” Deputy Fire Chief Dave Upper, told Global News during the fire on Saturday morning.

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“We had challenges establishing a water supply. We had a significant fire and then you look at the building itself and you have all of these houses were greenhouses, they were polyhouses, so it’s all the plastic and fibreglass material, and once that gets going it accelerates the fire quite quickly.”

Just before Noon, Sabourin confirmed the fire was eventually contained and that officials from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment made their way out to the scene to monitor air quality, earlier in the morning.

The Ontario Fire Marshal also arrived early Saturday deploying drones over the scene to aid in their investigation.

The cause of the fire has not been determined.

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Upper added that the fire marshal is on the scene.

“They’re just going through particulars and getting the site mapped out and once we get the fire knocked down they’ll start their investigation, but it’s way too early to come up with any cause or origin,” he said.

Pioneer Flower Farms is family operated and according to its website, is one of the largest bulb forcing farms in North America.