News

Damage raised to $3-million for cottage fires

Tony Ricciuto

By Tony Ricciuto, Niagara Falls Review

Three cottages were destroyed, and another one was damaged by an early morning fire on Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 in Crystal Beach, Ont. One of the cottages was the family cottage of Judy Tannenhaus from 1964 up until May of 2016. MIKE DIBATTISTA / Niagara Falls Review / Postmedia Network


Three cottages were destroyed, and another one was damaged by an early morning fire on Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 in Crystal Beach, Ont. One of the cottages was the family cottage of Judy Tannenhaus from 1964 up until May of 2016. MIKE DIBATTISTA / Niagara Falls Review / Postmedia Network


A fieldstone fireplace is all that remains of the cottage where Judy Tannenhaus and her family called home for more than 50 years.

“We are all crying about this,” said Tannenhaus who drove in from Buffalo on Tuesday morning so that she could take a few photos of the charred remains.

“My parents bought the cottage in 1964 and it remained in our family until Memorial Day of May 2016 when it was sold to some people in Toronto,” she said. “We have some wonderful memories of this cottage. I was raised here, my kids were raised here and my grandchildren were raised here.”

Early Monday morning at about 3 a.m., fire caused more than $3-million in damages to four lakefront cottages on Erie Road near Beachwood Avenue in Crystal Beach.
 

Damage was initially pegged at about $2-million, but that has now been raised to about $3-million.

Two of the cottages in the middle were fully engulfed in flames and collapsing when firefighters from the Fort Erie Fire Department arrived on scene.

One of those cottages is where Tannenhaus recalls her father taking immaculate care of the property and even doing some of the stone work in the fireplace and near the entrance of the driveway.

“Even though it is no longer in our family, it was devastating to see this,” said Tannenhaus, who was away hiking in the Adirondack Mountains when she received word from a cousin on Monday and learned about the fire.

It took 42 firefighters about an hour and a half to get the fire under control and extinguished. The cottages belong to seasonal residents and no one was inside the cottages at the time of the fire. No one was injured as a result of the incident.

“This was a wonderful, magical place for us. It was loved and every moment up here was special. No one can take our memories away,” said Tannenhaus. “The fireplace was the heart and soul of our cottage and it’s the only thing left. It brought me to my knees, I cried for a long time, and then I started walking around. This cottage was good to us and it was sad to have it go out of our family but my father is gone and we ended up with a cottage that we no longer really used in the summer. I’m just glad no one was hurt.”

On Tuesday, many motorists pulled over to the side of the road so they could get a better look at the damage. One of them was John Horvath, a retired contractor who did work on the property.

“I put a kitchen in for them, also added a bathroom on the second floor and insulated the attic and the walls,” said Horvath. “This was my winter work. The father was a terrific guy and I had been recommended to them by another customer.”

Fort Erie Fire Chief Larry Coplen said the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal has been in to investigate, but at this point they are still trying to determine the cause of the fire.
“There are no red flags that we’re finding, but given the significant damage it’s difficult to pinpoint something,” said Coplen.

“The fire definitely started in one of the two central cottages, but we haven’t been able to say which one,” said Coplen. “The fire had obviously been burning for quite some time prior to it being noticed and us arriving on scene.”

The chief said someone in the area smelled smoke and heard some noises so they went outside to investigate and spotted the fire.
Coplen said credit goes to the volunteer firefighters who did a great job bringing the fire under control.

“They were able to stop the fire from extending. It could have taken out a whole row of houses very easily had they not performed a very good stop,” he said.
 
tricciuto@postmedia.com