SHEGUIANDAH—An early evening fire on Friday, July 22 destroyed the Sheguiandah home of Alicia McCutcheon and Aaron Case.
“We received a call at approximately 6:15 pm,” said Northeast Town Fire Chief Darren Bailey. “By the time our first truck arrived at about 6:24 it was fully engulfed and through the roof already.”
The fire team was on the site until 9:30 pm. “We had a couple of situations at the same time,” noted the fire chief. “There were a couple of 200-pound propane tanks that were screaming at us and with the strong winds we had a couple of grass fires start up from flying embers that we had to deal with.”
The propane tanks presented a particular hazard. “We set up unmanned nozzles to keep the water on them as they burned off,” noted Mr. Bailey.
The owners of the house were not home the time of the blaze.
“I had just walked into my parents’ house after being in Mindemoya when the phone rang,” said Alicia McCutcheon. As members of the household were arriving from various parts of the Island Ms. McCutcheon was stunned to hear her neighbour’s voice alert her that her house was on fire. “Joanne Wade was frantically telling me that my house was on fire,” she said. Ms. McCutcheon asked her neighbour if she had called 911 (she had) when her mind turned to her pets.
“We have three cats,” she said.
Two of the pets have since been located. Ms. McCutcheon’s father Rick McCutcheon discovered one walking down the road in Sheguiandah while another greeted him as he pulled in the driveway to set out food in hopes of finding them that same night. One cat, Bunny, which is deaf, is still unaccounted for. “She is a really good hunter so we are still hopeful she is alright,” said Ms. McCutcheon.
Cliff Jewell drove Ms. McCutcheon out to the scene. “It was fully engulfed when I got there,” she recalled. Concerned friends and neighbours began to arrive as word spread of the fire.
“There were some very kind boaters who were stranded by the fire trucks blocking the road who gave me some water to drink,” said Ms. McCutcheon, who was beginning to feel overwhelmed by emotion and was badly dehydrated. “I went down to the government docks and just sat there and waited.”
Ms. McCutcheon’s partner Aaron was at work in Gore Bay at the time of the fire.
The aftermath of the fire is beginning to really sink in to the family now that the initial shock has worn off and there are a million details to deal with.
“Dawn Madahbee was kind enough to pick up Rudy’s medicine (one of the cats suffers from blastomycosis) from Sudbury and we have been dealing with the fact that all of our clothing was in the house,” she said. “Our friends and family have been so good to us,” she added.
The losses are also beginning to come home to roost. Although the couple is insured, there are items that money simply cannot replace. “There was the family piano and a bookcase from the 1850s that was from my dad’s family farm in Nobleton and I had received a lot of Bill Trimmer’s (Mr. Case’s grandfather) memorabilia from the heyday of Manitoulin senior league hockey,” she said. Ms. McCutcheon is the editor of and a writer for the Manitoulin Expositor and had written a series on the history of Island hockey. “Those are things that money can’t replace. It is kind of a cliché, but you quickly discover that it is true,” she said.
The outpouring of support from the community has been somewhat overwhelming, admitted Ms. McCutcheon. “People have been very kind and concerned,” she said. “It is a very humbling experience. Aaron and I are just so thankful to everyone who has dropped off a gift or shared a kind word—we just can’t thank you all enough.”
The cause of the fire remains undetermined. “While the direct cause is undetermined, it appears to have started in the front room,” said fire chief Bailey. “We do not believe it to be suspicious.”