Early morning blaze tears through Thorndale Community Centre

Thames Centre firefighters tend to the remnants of a blaze that tore through the Thorndale Lions Community Centre on Feb. 24, 2020. Andrew Graham / Global News

The Thorndale Lions Community Centre is a ‘total loss’ after an early morning fire ripped through the building.

Fire crews responded to the call just after 2:30 a.m. Monday at 265 Upper Queen St. in Thorndale.

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READ MORE: 30 firefighters called in to battle church shed fire in Middlesex County

A damage estimate has not been released by fire officials but the blaze is under control, according to Thames Centre fire chief Ken Armstrong.

“I actually live just right across the street so I did a 360 with my car and we already had flames showing out the east end,” said Armstrong.

Armstrong added there were no injuries reported in the blaze. He expects firefighters to remain on scene well into Monday afternoon.

‘It was definitely the hub of our community’

Connie Bontje is the past president of the Thorndale Agricultural Society. Bontje and 10 others were cast in a series of dinner theatres being held at the community centre to raise funds for the society, the 15th annual edition of the fundraiser.

Their latest show was on Sunday and two more were set for the following the weekend, but plans for the dinner theatres went up in smoke when Bontje woke up to Monday’s fire.

Connie Bontje was helping with an ongoing fundraiser at the community centre that aimed to raise funds for the Thorndale Agricultural Society. Andrew Graham / Global News
“No idea what happened. When we left [Sunday] everything was great,” said Bontje. “The cast and crew are just devastated, not for the loss of our props and the production time, but for the community.”
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“We’re meeting tonight just to mourn the loss of this for Thorndale.”

The loss was also felt by Thames Centre Deputy Mayor Kelly Elliott.

“It was definitely the hub of our community,” Elliott said.

Elliott, along with most of the municipality’s council, were unable to make it to Thorndale on Monday as they are attending the 2020 Ontario Good Roads Association Conference in Toronto.

The deputy mayor says fellow elected officials and municipal workers at the conference have already offered up their own community centres and places of gathering for Thorndale residents.

READ MORE: 30 firefighters called in to battle church shed fire in Middlesex County

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“I guess the silver lining was we were already planning on building a new one,” Elliott said. She added that the plan for the new community centre, prior to Monday’s fire, was to have it ready for the end of August.

In the meantime, Elliott said she’ll join her neighbours in reminiscing on times spent at the Thorndale Lions Community Centre.

“Whether its fall fairs or weddings or showers or dances, we’ve all kind of had our special memories there.”

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