A large fire destroyed a decades-old family-run auto repair shop and disrupted the flow of water in Meaford Thursday night.
Black smoke from the blaze at Johnny B’s Automotive and Car Care was seen as far away as Owen Sound and The Blue Mountains as neighbors reported hearing explosions and being overwhelmed by fumes and heat.
No injuries were reported as of Friday morning.
The municipality issued a news release early Friday morning asking residents connected to the municipal water system to avoid drinking the water and to limit consumption as much as possible. The municipality is temporarily shutting down the system to ensure no byproducts of the fire at 452 Sykes St. N. enter the water system.
The municipality also convened its Emergency Control Group to assess and monitor the situation, according to a media release.
Onlookers gathered on the town’s main thoroughfare just west of the downtown core for hours Thursday night both captivated by the scene and mourning the loss of a popular local business.
Johnny B’s owner John Bulsink started the family business 21 years ago. He said he plans to rebuild as neighbors came by to offer support and condolences.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, said Meaford Fire Chief Courtney Allen Friday morning.
A neighbor said they saw the flames billowing out of a garage bay early Thursday evening and watched from their driveway until the heat and fumes became too much to bear. Small chunks of rubber from the exploding tires littered parts of the driveway Thursday.
Several photo and video posts on social media show a large column of flames and smoke shooting up through the roof of the building as cars burn near the exterior of the structure.
Highway 26, called Sykes Street in Meaford, remained shut down between Susan and Helen Streets Friday morning as crews remained on the scene to monitor the smoldering remains and wait for hazardous materials and clean-up crews.
Fire departments from Gray Highlands and the Town of Blue Mountains, as well as the Inter-Township Fire Department, assisted with the firefighting efforts. Allen said as many as 60 firefighters worked through the night at the scene as well as the Ontario Provincial Police and Gray County Paramedics and their Incident Response Team.
Georgian Bay Community School and some local businesses closed their doors to the public Friday due to the water restriction.