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'Flames 20 feet in the sky': Arson suspected as vacant CN Rail building in St. Thomas catches fire

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A vacant building known to be the home of vagrants in St. Thomas has gone up in flames.

On Monday night around 11 p.m. the St. Thomas Fire Department was called to an abandoned building belonging to CN Rail at the north end of St. Catharine Street.

“Flames were 20 feet in the sky,” said David Silver Nebesniuk, a neighbour who called 9-1-1. “When I came home, it look like sparks coming out of the side of the building, and then I saw the flames."

Fire crews responded.

“It was fairly stable, but we had a water main break nearby which caused some water flow issues for our trucks, but they managed to get it out,” said Kim Destun, chief fire prevention officer for the city of St. Thomas. “Because it was a vacant building and all the hydro and everything was shut off, obviously it was an arson.”

Destun said the building had an attic space which got the fire up, and it was difficult to access. They brought in the aerial truck to knock the fire down.

CN Police is handling the investigation. CTV News reached out to CN to determine the next steps, but we have yet to receive a response.

Fire was set to an abandoned building belonging to CN Rail in St. Thomas, Ont. (Source: David Noseworthy)

This morning, fire officials were using heavy equipment to sift through the rubble. 

“Because it was a stubborn fire, we had to bring the building down,” said Destun. “We were just kind of going through because whoever set the fire could still be in there.”

Destun says she was told by CN Police that the building was just days away from being knocked down.

Flames lit up the sky in St. Thomas on Monday June 24, 2024 after fire was set to an abandoned building belong to CN Rail in St. Thomas, Ont. (Source: David Silver Nebesniuk).

Neighbours have been asking for it to be removed for a long time.

“In their defense, like, they don't have million people watching all their properties,” said Silver Nebesniuk. “People have broke in there looking for the copper. I just heard, like, a couple nights ago, a couple people walking by talking about the air conditioner on top of it. I personally know people that have stayed in there to get out of the cold.”

Another neighbour told CTV News they are sad that this is the way it came down, but is happy the building is now gone.

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