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Fire destroys major portion of century-old building in downtown Amherst, N.S.

Officials say 105 firefighters battled a blaze in the  Amherst, N.S., on Sept. 19, 2020.
Officials say 105 firefighters battled a blaze in the Amherst, N.S., on Sept. 19, 2020. Tom McCoag / Town of Amherst

An overnight fire in Amherst, N.S., destroyed a major portion of a century-old building in the town’s downtown core on Saturday.

A release from the Town of Amherst said that the building contained East Store and a second undisclosed business.

The destruction came despite the efforts of 105 firefighters from seven different departments.

Read more: Dozens displaced after fire badly damages apartment building in Dieppe, N.B.

The fire was first reported shortly after 10:30 p.m. at the U-shaped building that dominates a block that intersects Crescent Avenue, Douglas Avenue, Abbot Street and Station Street in Amherst.

“When we arrived on the scene, smoke was starting to come out of the eaves of the structure and from the doors on the lower level,” said fire chief Greg Jones in a press release.

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A crew was initially sent into the building to battle the blaze but Jones said the fire had progressed “to a point where that was not possible because the fire had started rolling inside the building.”

“We could see it happening through the windows,” said Jones.

Sackville, N.B., firefighters pour water from their aerial truck onto a fire that destroyed much of a downtown Amherst building.
Sackville, N.B., firefighters pour water from their aerial truck onto a fire that destroyed much of a downtown Amherst building. Tom McCoag / Town of Amherst

Flames reportedly shot out from the building at least 20 metres into the air while dense smoke could be seen from several blocks away.

Jones said three aerial trucks, Amherst, Springhill and Sackville, N.B., assisted in the response, pouring water on the fire from three different sides of the building.

At some points, the roof and walls of the building collapsed.

Click to play video 'Fire rips through Peterborough apartment building' Fire rips through Peterborough apartment building
Fire rips through Peterborough apartment building

An evacuation of nearby buildings was considered but Jones did not carry out the order.

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Eventually, at about 3 a.m., an excavator was brought in to bring down the walls and to allow firefighters easier access to the flames.

The excavator was still on scene approximately five hours later as the flames still burned.

Several downtown streets were blocked off as firefighters battled the blaze. Jones said he expects the closures to last throughout much of Sunday as crews remain in the scene.