A vicious blaze completely destroyed 19 vehicles parked just off Niagara Stone Road in Niagara-on-the-Lake on Sunday, and damaged another 15.
The fire, of an unknown cause, started sometime around 3:50 p.m. in the field of short dry hay where the vehicles were parked across the street from the packed Niagara Lavender Festival, held at Neob Lavender Boutique.
Niagara-on-the-Lake Fire Chief Rob Grimwood said parking vehicles in the field with the dry hay was “such a bad idea that (firefighters) communicated to the event organizer not to do it.”
“It’s some advice from the fire department that wasn’t followed, and this is exactly why. It’s a dry season, there are several municipalities already with fire bans, because once you get fire into dry grass, hay or wheat like this, it travels very quickly,” Grimwood said.
He said the problem with a parking lot like the one used, is the fire will travel underneath the cars, start one car on fire and move to the next.
“I don’t have an accurate count right now, but there’s a good chance we’ve lost an excess of 20 vehicles here,” Grimwood told a Niagara Now reporter who was on scene during the blaze.
He said the cause of a fire in a hay field is nearly impossible to determine, but that it’s usually something as simple as discarded cigarette or a hot exhaust that touches a piece of dry grass.
Nobody was injured in the incident that firefighters know of, but for firefighters, the threat of heat exhaustion and exertion is a real threat, Grimwood said.
“These firefighters are wearing an excess of 100 pounds,” he said, while he himself was standing the sweltering July heat.
He said firefighters on scene were rotating through a rehabilitation centre to cool them off and check their vital signs, as heat exhaustion can set in fairly quickly.
Grimwood himself looked like he was cooking.
“And I’m doing the coordinating, I’m not even doing the physical work,” he said, offering praise to his crew.
“These firefighters are amazing. These guys are all volunteers who are out here on a Sunday afternoon in the summer. They’re doing an amazing job. This could have been a lot worse. I mean you look out here, and you see all these damaged vehicles, but for every vehicle that is damaged, you see two that were saved.”
“I can’t say enough about my firefighters. They’re amazing. They did incredible work today.”
This story is in development and will be updated.