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Fire destroys fire station in Portland, Ont.

A massive fire has destroyed the fire station in the community of Portland, Ont., about 100 km southwest of Ottawa.

The fire broke out Tuesday afternoon. Witnesses reported hearing loud bangs before the volunteer fire department went up in flames. A massive plume of smoke could be seen rising into the air.

Marc Gravelle lives nearby and told CTV News at Six that he first heard loud bangs at around 4:15 p.m.

"What we thought was like a bomb went off. It actually shook our home," he said. "We immediately ran outside to see our volunteer fire department was completely engulfed. It was very scary. Within seconds, I would say, the entire building was completely gone."

Gravelle said the volunteer service's fire trucks were also inside the garage when the fire broke out and have also been destroyed. He says a local councillor told him the equipment was insured, which the Township of Rideau Lakes later confirmed in a press release.

The township says the fire was extinguished by the Rideau Lakes Fire Department Delta, Elgin and Westport Stations, with assistance from the Smiths Falls Fire Department. Station coverage was provided by Leeds and the Thousand Islands and South Frontenac Departments.

"They're doing a fantastic job. We're basically on the water here at the Rideau Lakes, so they've already got two pipe systems in there, watering the buildings down. So, we're not as afraid but when the propane tanks explode, that really gets you," Gravelle said.

Hydro One also reported a power outage in the small community at the time of the fire.

In a release, the Township of Rideau Lakes said no one was hurt.

"The hall and its contents were destroyed," said Rideau Lakes fire chief Scott Granahan, "The cause of the fire is still under investigation."

"While a significant loss for the community, we are thankful that no one was injured in the fire," mayor Arie Hoogenboom said. "I extend my appreciation to our firefighters and our neighbouring departments for their professionalism and support."

Hoogenboom told CTV News Ottawa that there was a tanker, a pumper, and a rescue vehicle in the fire station when it burned. Everything was destroyed.

"It's quite devastating for our department, obviously, our volunteer department," he said, "and also for the township as a whole because we put a lot of value into our volunteer fire department and it's a very important emergency service." 

The Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal is also investigating.

"The OFM will be sending an investigator to the scene December 22nd. Our Field and Advisory Services team will also be working with local fire officials to assess what's needed by the fire service," a statement said.

"We want to find out the cause of the fire," Hoogenboom said. "At this point in time, nobody suspects foul play, but it's important to have the fire marshal here, particularly when it's such a sizeable loss, to know what caused the fire, could it have been prevented, those kinds of things."

The fire did an estimated $1.5 million in damage to the vehicles and building, Granahan said Wednesday.

He added that neighbouring communities have offered fire equipment so there will be no loss of fire coverage in the area. 

He says the loss of the fire hall is affecting the whole community.

"It was gutting for the membership, this is their home," Granahan said. "Many of the members have been here for decades, so to have this loss come in the holiday season, just after another tragic fire within our community, was really tough for the membership. They rallied and they did a great job last night, and they continue to work hard today, and we'll just persevere and get through it and continue to do our job." Top Stories

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