The fire is seen at the bingo hall in Alton on April 5. (Submitted photo)

ALTON: A conflagration on April 5 that destroyed an old bingo hall in the Stewiacke area has been deemed suspicious by firefighters.

Firefighters from Stewiacke were alerted to the structure fire at the vacant building at 109 Shortts Lake Road South in Alton at 7:40 p.m. That set off the tones for mutual aid responses from Brookfield; Hilden; Lantz RIT; Milford; and Indian Brook fire. RCMP and EHS also attended the scene.

“We knew immediately what building it was, we had expected it to eventually be torched it’s been abandoned for quite some time,” said Stewiacke Fire Deputy Chief and media officer Kara McCurdy. “We’re very fortunate the fire wasn’t during a drier month. We would have been worrying about a wildfire with the structure fire.”

McCurdy said key on scene items included accountability, safety and decontamination.

“We wanted to make sure everyone was accounted for, but not only that, that everyone coming out of the fire was taken care of with gear rinsed off,” she said. “We don’t need sick firefighters from any toxins in the middle of a pandemic.”

She admitted she was surprised at how an old, rotten structure could burn so readily.

“The fire on the most part was burning in the section closest to the highway, the rear of the structure not visible from the road was partially torn down years ago,” she explained. “This is where we saw the high flames, the heat there was intense.”

Fire crews approached the fire as a defensive attack from the get-go.

“Because the structure was so old there was uncertainty of how sound and safe it was to enter to suppress the fire,” said McCurdy. “With it being abandoned it wasn’t worth the risk of firefighters lives to enter until we were certain we could.

“Visibility because of smoke was poor once water started being applied.”

She said among the hurdles for firefighters was the layers upon layers of sub roofing, cedar shake siding, and additions, to the building.

“The fire crept into places you couldn’t access in the walls or ceiling without forcible entry,” said McCurdy.

The cause of the blaze remains under investigation but is believed to be suspicious.