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Fire at old Iroquois Falls mill didn't affect buildings: CEO

Blaze was in partially demolished area
2018-07-08 IF fire MH
Chrissi Demers shared photos of the Abitibi Commons fire on Facebook.

A fire at Abitibi Commons won't impact the activities at the site, according to Riversedge Developments CEO Justus Veldman.

Images of heavy smoke coming from the site were posted to social media on the evening of July 7 after the fire started at the old paper mill site in Iroquois Falls.

Veldman, however, said it was in a partially demolished area with debris such as wood that was being cleaned up.

“It was in the area behind the warehouse," he said. "No building structures were on fire."

The fire started around 8 p.m. on July 7 and at “4 a.m. they got it under control then we had fire watch all day Sunday,” Veldman said.

The cause of the fire is not known yet.

“We were working in the area…but we’re looking into the cause, doing an internal review of what happened,” he said.

Throughout the evening, the community dropped off donations of water and food for the fire crews. Veldman is thankful for their support.

“There was a lot of people from the general public that really supported the fire department,” he said.

The Town of Iroquois Falls also recognized the kindness on their Facebook page.

“The Iroquois Falls Fire Department would like to thank all who donated food and beverages to our firefighters that were working on the fire at the old mill site. Contributions like this in these situations are greatly appreciated by all of our firefighters,” reads the post.

Abitibi Commons was set up at the site of the former mill after it closed in 2014. It is a partnership between the community of Iroquois Falls and Riversedge Developments.

The 80-acre property includes 50,000 square feet of warehousing space, an additional 53,000 square feet of office space, nine loading docks, rail access with a holding capacity of 32 rail cars, silos, clarifier units and 2,100 acres of potential farmland.

The blaze, said Veldman, will have “absolutely zero effect” on the activities at the site.

Work is underway to get the potato processing plant, which is in the warehouse near where the fire was, up and running this year.

“There’s 55 acres of potatoes being grown as we speak,” he said.

Veldman said the design and layout of the facility is done. After another round of funding, they hope to complete the installation.

“We really want to get it up and going this fall,” he said.

Minstead, a new initiative building tiny homes, is also run on the Abitibi Commons property away from where the fire was.

This year, Veldman said they’ve started delivering food boxes to the James Bay coast as well.

The new service is going well and keeping with the company’s goal of being “focused on agriculture and food, and food from the north for the North. We’re constantly going up to Moose Factory and Moosonee now with produce and meat and meat boxes and all kinds of different stuff,” he said.

The Mill Market is also open every Saturday at 209 Cambridge Ave. from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., with vendors offering a variety of local produce, handmade items, and more.