CRYSLER — The owner of Desormeaux Meats Inc & Slaughterhouse suspects upgraded cooling compressors may have played a role in the damaging fire that struck the Queen Street business around 2 a.m. yesterday morning.
“We don’t know if that’s what started it, but the fire started back there and took off into the roof above the main cooling space,” said Brian Vandenberg, motioning toward areas of blackened steel cladding, this morning.
Because the fire didn’t penetrate the ceiling of the cooler, Vandenberg remained hopeful that Ontario’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs would grant permission to salvage 25 beef and nine pork carcasses plus customers’ freezer orders left inside the structure. Assessing the internal temperature of the meat will be part of that process. “We’ll see what OMAFRA will let me do. They’re supposed to be here this morning,” said the Winchester-area resident, who officially acquired the operation just a month ago. “One month ago today,” he clarifies, between calls on his cell phone and waiting for permission to enter the building sealed by fire officials.
“It’s been four exciting weeks so far,” he deadpanned, while vowing to get the business back on its feet. One of the few small-scale abattoirs left in Eastern Ontario, the operation is insured and will be repaired or rebuilt as necessary, he assured. In the meantime, he said they’ve been looking at temporary alternative facilities in the area to keep them going until the recovery in Crysler is complete. “That’s going to take some time, but the insurance adjuster will be here this morning,” he added.
The approximately 60-year-old business suffered a less serious roof fire about twenty years ago. “But it wasn’t as bad as this time,” said a long-time employee, one of three kept on by Vanderberg when he bought the company from Jean-Guy Desormeaux. “Half of it has burned for sure this time, and the water damage increases the damage so much more.” Crysler firefighters “don’t want to come back” after dousing a blaze, the employee added with a tone of understanding.
This weekend’s setback for Desormeaux Meats has triggered a supportive response in the community. Indicative of that support, a local resident happened to show up this morning with an offer to restore power to the building with a 10,000 kW generator — if it would help.
The response on Facebook has been “very, very positive,” Vandenberg also acknowledged. “I’m thrilled by that. And my first four weeks, we’ve been running off our feet. The support is exceeding my expectations.”
In a Facebook post, North Stormont Councillor Roxane Villeneuve said that North Stormont Fire Chief Dan Gauvin has credited the “fantastic efforts” of Crysler and Finch station firefighters with saving a “good portion” of the building. “In addition to the firefighters’ efforts, recently purchased equipment including thermal imagery cameras helped tremendously in saving much of the building,” the councillor said.
This article was edited to include the comments of Councillor Roxane Villeneuve.