Fire caused by disposed cigarette butt could have been much worse than it was

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KAGAWONG – One acre is certainly large enough, but if not for the quick response of a couple of local fire departments, and the efforts of at least two members of the public who were driving by, to a fire on Jerusalem Hill Road this past Sunday, it could have been much, much worse.

“We had a busy evening last night,” Martin Connell, fire chief of the Billings township volunteer fire department told the Recorder this past Monday. “We received a call about the fire being reported at about 6:30 pm on Sunday evening, at the intersection of Cross Hill Road and Jerusalem Road. As a result of uncertainty as to where exactly the fire was occurring, both the Billings and M’Chigeeng First Nation fire departments responded.”

Fire Chief McConnell noted that the fire took place at 348 Jerusalem Hill Road, a property owned by Richard Lalonde of Kagawong, which contains a cottage and garage.

“Being that it is a seasonal cottage the owner of the property was not home at the time,” continued Fire Chief Connell. He stressed the important work that at least two passers-by of the property—Steve Radulovich and Sophie Edwards—provided. “They were both passing by in their vehicles when they stopped and they were suppressing the fire by themselves when the fire departments arrived on the scene.” 

Both fire departments coordinated their efforts to get the blaze under control. The fire spread from the northern corner of the driveway to Mr. Lalonde’s garage and utility trailer. “Luckily the tires on the utility trailer (or the latter) did not ignite, and because the fire went up to the garage, which is made of steel, it is basically saved it from burning down.”

Fire Chief Connell said that the apparent cause of the fire was a cigarette butt that had been discharged from someone passing by the property on the road. “Luckily, there was no damage to the cottage,” he said, noting, “if the cigarette butt had landed on the south side of the driveway it would have burned down the cottage. It is dry up there, there isn’t much grass but there are dead materials and hardwood trees on the property.”

“If we had arrived an hour later, this could have developed into a large brush fire and the MNRF (Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) may have been needed with their water bombers,” added Fire Chief Connell, who noted it took firefighters two hours to put out the blaze and one acre of property was damaged.