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Welding mishap possible cause for Indwell fire in Simcoe

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No injuries were reported in a large fire in downtown Simcoe on June 17.

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The blaze broke out shortly before 8 a.m. at the construction site of the Indwell affordable housing project at the corner of Norfolk Street South and Sydenham Street.

Graham Cubitt, Indwell’s director of projects and development, says a welding mishap is under investigation as a possible cause.

Cubitt said welding was conducted on site Wednesday and again Thursday morning. The fire started in roofing insulation that was stored on site under a protective covering. Cubitt says a welding spark may have smouldered in the pile over night or landed in the flammable material Thursday morning.

The Norfolk County Fire Department reports the blaze was intense.

“Neighbouring buildings received some damage from radiant heat,” deputy fire chief Jeff Smith said in a news update, adding firefighters from Simcoe and Waterford responded to the alarm.

Fire officials have deferred a damage estimate pending an engineering inspection of the construction site.

Indwell is based in Hamilton. The $12-million Dogwood Suites project is underway at the former site of the Norfolk Inn. When finished, the three-storey structure will supply 50 apartments for clients who qualify for affordable housing and who need in-house supports for mental health and other issues.

Cubitt suspects the fire represents “a hiccup” in Indwell’s plans to cut the ribbon on the project early next year.

“We’re hopeful we’re only dealing with minor structural issues and that the fire was simply confined to materials on site,” Cubitt said in an interview.

Indwell regional manager Leah Logan shared similar optimism in a posting on social media.

“Today was a small setback, but we are committed to our vision of providing affordable, supportive housing for the Norfolk community,” she said. “Tomorrow, we will get back to work.”

This is the second major supportive housing project Indwell has taken on in Simcoe. Several years ago, Indwell acquired the former Hambleton Hall on John Street and converted it into apartments as well.

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