Update: OFM investigating – Fire in South Frontenac causes total collapse of convenience store

Toppers Market convenience store in the Village of Verona, South Frontenac Township, is completely destroyed by fire on Wednesday, Jun. 7, 2023. Photo by Kingstonist.

Update (Thursday, Jun. 8, 2023):
The investigation into the fire that broke out at the convenience store and adjacent apartments in Verona on Wednesday, Jun. 7, 2023, has now been turned over to the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal (OFM).

Just before 1 p.m. the day after the fire, Sean Driscoll, a spokesperson for the OFM, confirmed that their office was taking the lead on the investigation.

“I can confirm that the Office of the Fire Marshal (OFM) will be investigating the cause, origin, and circumstance of the fire that broke out in Verona,” Driscoll relayed.

“An investigator with the OFM has been assigned and will begin the investigation shortly.”

South Frontenac Fire and Rescue crews remain on scene at this time (1:15 p.m. on June 8, 2023). Kingstonist has reached out to South Frontenac Fire and Rescue for further details about what happened, possible causes, and estimated costs of damages, however, no response was received by time of publication.

Update (Wednesday, Jun. 7, 2023, at 8:25 p.m.: Highway 38 has now been reopened to traffic in the Verona area.

Original article (Wednesday, Jun. 7, 2023, at 4:40 p.m.):

While those throughout Kingston and Frontenac County are already dealing with intense smoke and poor air quality as a result of ongoing forest fires in Greater Madawaska and throughout Quebec, news of a structure fire in South Frontenac Township was hardly welcome.

But that news was even less welcomed by South Frontenac residents as they learned a Toppers Market, a longtime staple convenience store – with an attached gas station – was up in flames.

At approximately 2:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Jun. 7, 2023, South Frontenac Fire and Rescue crews were dispatched after reports of a structure fire on Highway 38 near Carleton Drive. Frontenac Paramedics were also sent to the address, which turned out to be the beloved general store, but luckily, all those inside the building when the fire started were able to escape without injuries.

As local residents looked on and firefighters sped towards the scene from multiple stations throughout the township, flames enveloped the building. Suddenly, the sound of small explosions began to ring through the air – as firefighters arrived and began to apply water to the inferno, fireworks, presumably merchandise inside the store, began to go off, adding another layer of danger to the situation. With a gas station and propane sales station on the property, the scene was a veritable tinderbox.

Video by Kingstonist.

Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officers worked quickly to close off the normally busy Highway 38, as firefighters worked to contain the fire. Fire crews from both Kingston and Stone Mills Township were dispatched to the location for mutual aid.

According to Frontenac Paramedic Services just before 4 p.m., no injuries had been reported as a result of the fire. And while OPP officers on the scene indicated that a shelter in place order may be coming for residents in the area, that had not occurred by 4:30 p.m., something South Frontenac Fire and Rescue addressed in a statement.

“We understand there may be a shelter in place order coming, but it is not due to any immediate threat to the public but to advise people to stay indoors and keep windows closed due to the smoke in the area,” said Laurie Swinton, Communications Officer for South Frontenac Township and South Frontenac Fire and Rescue.

“Highway 38 is closed from Verona Sand Road to Desert Lake Road due to a structure fire in Verona. Detours are in place with traffic being directed from Sand Road to Hinchinbrooke Road to Desert Lake Road. Only local traffic will be allowed in the village,” Swinton relayed.

“South Frontenac Fire and Rescue are on scene of the fire, which involves a commercial and residential structure. The fire is under control and no injuries are reported.”

As of 4:30 p.m., it appeared the fire was completely extinguished, however, emergency responders will remain on scene for several hours, monitoring for hot spots or flare ups from the heat of the fire, and carrying out their investigations.

Kingstonist will provide updated coverage on this situation as more information becomes available.

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