North Island Rockpro owner Bill Milligan says he has no plans to rebuild the Hardy Bay Industrial Centre building after a fire almost destroyed it entirely on April 18.
Milligan was not surprised the old building went up in smoke.
“From the day I bought it, I knew this would happen sooner or later,” he told the Gazette.
The building was not insured. It’s age and condition, coupled with the welder and mechanic tenants made it nearly impossible to get insurance, Milligan said.
“I guess I don’t have to worry about it burning down anymore.”
Instead of rebuilding, he’s planning to move into the Marshall Glass building, adjacent to the fire site.
The blaze started from a locked room on the ground floor around 9:30 a.m. on April 18. Fitz Jackson’s welding shop, FJ Welding, was obliterated.
“Everything is gone. Everything,” Jackson said.
He watched the fire from across the river where he was working. He’d been at the building that morning, noticed what looked like steam rising off the roof. Odd, he thought, as it wasn’t that hot yet. By the time he looked back across the bay, there was a tendril of smoke. Jackson stood watching, wondering if it was from a machine operating.
|Fitz Jackson recalling the mushrooms of smoke he saw from across the river. He lost his welding shop in the Hardy Bay Industrial Centre fire, but is still working with the few tools he had with him at the time. (Zoë Ducklow)|
“In about three second, we see like a mushroom smoke go up — one — two — three — boom! boom! boom! We could hear it [across the water]. And we said no, that is a fire,” he recalled. “It started off so slow. It comes off so small, just little trickles.”
There was one other person working at Rockpro that morning. He told Jackson later he heard sounds in the walls.
“You know he keeps listening, and he’s grinding, and listening, and it gets louder. He comes out and then he could see the smoke coming out,” Jackson said.
The fire department arrived shortly after 9:46 a.m. and fought the blaze until nearly 10 p.m. It was Port Hardy’s largest fire since 2003 when Alpha Processing burned.
“There was nothing I could do, my shop just burned,” he said. He lost four welding machines, a truck he was rebuilding, and dozens of small tools, as well as a new cutting torch, a box of fresh coveralls waiting for the current pair to wear out, work boots and some clean clothes to wear home.
Despite the loss, Jackson’s plans haven’t changed. He’ll keep welding until he retires. He just won’t take big jobs – flying into camp, or working on construction projects.
Three crowdfunding campaigns were started to support tenants impacted by the fire. The most successful was a campaign for the Crash Palace Cowboys, a local band who lost all their equipment. So far, $4,505 has been donated to the group.
The fire was not suspicious, according to Port Hardy Fire Rescue.
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