Hot weather, heat from the fire and heavy protective clothing ganged up on firefighter Ernie West, top rear, as he helped Pat Darcy train a hose on the three-alarm fire. In the second picture West gets some relief by dousing his face. However, bottom picture, he has to be helped from the scene by Capt. Bruce Shannon. West took a short rest and returned to fight the fire. (By Bill Ironside of The Free Press)

Hot weather, heat from the fire and heavy protective clothing ganged up on firefighter Ernie West, top rear, as he helped Pat Darcy train a hose on the three-alarm fire. In the second picture West gets some relief by dousing his face. However, bottom picture, he has to be helped from the scene by Capt. Bruce Shannon. West took a short rest and returned to fight the fire. (By Bill Ironside of The Free Press)

Firefighters continued to pour water on the rubble at Belton Building Materials’ Rectory Street lot today as investigators probed the ruins for the cause of a fire that destroyed two warehouses Monday.

The noon-hour blaze, which caused an estimated $750,000 damage, was being investigated by Fire Department Inspector Keith Newman and Robert Kaufman of the Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office.

Acting Deputy Chief Herb Wright of the London Fire Department made the loss estimate but said company officials told him invoices and other documents must be checked before a more exact figure is set.

Newman said Monday the fire apparently started in a building at the northwest corner of the lot.  He understood it had contained cedar patio chairs in cardboard cartons.

In addition to the two adjoining warehouses, building materials in the yard were damaged or destroyed and a third warehouse was slightly damaged.

Company president Jim Belton had no idea how the fire started.

The 911 emergency telephone system received high praise from Belton salesman Leon Subko, who telephoned the alarm.

“It was on that 911 thing and they connected straight through to the fire department.  Everyone’s complaining about that system, but in this case it was perfect.  They came here in three minutes.”

Subko quickly sealed of nearby storage areas and firemen hosed down a few sparks which jumped to a warehouse roof 100 feet away.

It will be several days before the fire in the lumber pile burns itself out, Subko said.

An eastbound freight train was held up for close to an hour before being allowed to pass within a few feet of the fire site.

Firefighters John Marshall and Earl Smith were treated at Victoria Hospital for cuts and burns to their hands.  Morley Haynes, who fell through the roof of one of the burned buildings, was also treated.

Wright said several other members of the seven companies called in to fight the blaze collapsed from heat exhaustion.

The fire, reported about 11:20 a.m., sent a pillar of smoke and flames into the sky which could be seen across the city.

Wright said a piece of burning shingle “fluttered down” into the swimming pool of firefighter Bob Drake’s Pond Mills Road home, about two miles from the fire scene

“Sounds incredible, that far away, but it happened”.