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Damage from Thorold fire estimated at $500K, 2 firefighters treated for heat exhaustion

The fire that tore through a Thorold auto body shop Wednesday consumed multiple vehicles and supplies such as paint thinners, causing at least $500,000 in damage and sending clouds of potentially toxic smoke billowing into the sky, according to the city’s fire chief.

Chief Tyler Dixon said the vehicles and thinners created a “very heavy fuel load” inside the building and created heavy smoke “which would could be very toxic.”

“This is why we asked Niagara Regional Police to set up a 1 km radius shelter in place and also had a few of the immediate houses evacuate,” he explained.

Residents living near the corner of Ormond Street North and St. David Street East were directed to stay indoors, close their windows and turn off their air conditioners after was sparked around 2:17 p.m.

“Get inside your home or other building as quickly as possible,” police spokesperson Stephanie Sabourin tweeted around 4:20 p.m. “Close all doors, windows, fireplaces, vents or other openings.”

Dixon said he believes an overheated exhaust fan motor is what sparked the blaze.

The chief described the fire as “very challenging” because of the material that was burning and the hot weather.

“We had two firefighters that were overcome with heat exhaustion,” he said, adding both were treated by paramedics then released to rest at home.

Dixon thanked the St. Catharines fire department for coming to help as well as the Big Red Market and nearby Front Row Sports for supplying drinks and offering firefighters a place to cool off.

He also praised his crews for limited the damage to a building only six feet away from the burning shop, saying it was a “job well done.”

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