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'A sad day for Thorndale': Residents react as fire destroys Thorndale Community Centre
THORNDALE, ONT. -- A fire tore through the Thorndale Community Centre overnight leaving little but smoldering rubble.
"Anything happening in Thorndale, this is where it would happen," says resident Dick Neiuwland.
He was on scene in the middle of the night, but came back Monday morning to see what was left of the building, which has been the main local meeting place in the town for more than 60 years.
The 911 call came in just after 2:30 a.m. Fire Chief Ken Armstrong was the first on scene as he lives just steps away.
"My wife and I live right across the street," says Armstrong. " I could see the smoke and flames so I did a 360 [drive around the building] with my car, and at that time the flames were already coming out of the east end of the building. I went to the (fire) hall and by then it was already coming out of the roof."
"Luckily there was no one in the building at the time of the fire," says Mayor Alison Warwick.
Thames Centre volunteer firefighters took a defensive approach, but there was nothing they could do to save the building used by many community groups.
"For those of us who have been here for a long time, it's a real shock today," says Ron Johnson of the Lions Club. His organization has put countless hours of work into the building to restore and expand it.
"I have so many memories of the place," says Johnson, "A lot of family gatherings and family weddings here. My heart was in this place it's like losing a part of my life really."
The board of the Agricultural Society that runs the Thorndale Fair is also reeling. They were halfway through the performance run of their 15th annual fundraising dinner theatre play.
"Our set, specialty-made costumes by the crew, props and things actors brought from home...it is all gone," says Connie Bontje, past president of the Agricultural Society.
Construction of a new $2.8 million community centre is scheduled to begin in April. The plan is to have it done in time for the annual fall fair in September.
"That doesn't mean it had to end this way," says Nieuwland.
Armstrong adds the Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office will not be called into investigate because the fire was so devastating it will be impossible to determine the cause.