On July 30, under a sun-drenched sky, diners were sitting down for a lunchtime meal on the Old Marina Restaurant’s wooden balcony overlooking Puslinch Lake, a 20-minute drive southeast of Kitchener, Ont., when restaurant staff started approaching tables, telling diners they needed to evacuate. The basement had caught fire.
Confronted with black billowing smoke, staff rushed down to the basement with a fire extinguisher. But they were unable to douse the flame. That’s when they called the fire department.
Around 12:45 p.m., the Cambridge Fire Department arrived and were joined by four other departments from neighbouring districts. Restaurant staff managed to evacuate everyone safely from the building before fire services arrived.
Two firefighters from the Cambridge Fire Department attempted to enter the restaurant to find the source of the fire, but were met with high heat and severe smoke which forced them back outside. Instead, “They did what they call a defensive attack, where they put water on the fire from the outside,” explained Puslinch Fire Chief, Tom Mulvey, who was commanding the Puslinch Fire Department.
Fire services bathed the building with water from hoses on the ground and even extended an arm from one of their trucks above the flames, blasting the roof with water. But they were unable to save the building. The fire swept through the wooden structure.
Mulvey estimates the damage caused at around $2 million. The Puslinch Fire Department is in charge of investigating the fire, which they’re doing in conjunction with the restaurant’s insurance company.
The cause of the fire has yet to be determined, but Mulvey says he’s certain it originated in the basement. The investigation is temporarily stalled while the fire department waits for the insurance company to provide the necessary equipment to remove debris from the site. Mulvey says he doesn’t think there was any foul play involved in the fire.
The Old Marina Restaurant has a long history in the community, tracing its roots back to the 1920s when the City of Guelph erected the structure as a dance hall. By the 1950s, it had evolved into a marina, offering engine repairs, boat rentals, and even a waterski school. It wasn’t until 1993 that the owners transformed the venue into a restaurant.
This is the second fire in the Old Marina Restaurant’s history. In 2005, the building burned to the ground, only to be reopened in 2007.
For days after the July 30th fire, members of the community came out to look at the restaurant’s burnt husk. “I think everybody’s devastated. I think it was a meeting point for people,” Mulvey says. “The McClintock family that owns the building are well-liked and have a lot of friends, and I think that everybody feels what happened was really terrible.”
Evan Cook, brother of the restaurant’s manager, Joel Cook, started a GoFundMe page to help finance any of the restaurant’s costs not covered by insurance. As of the time of publishing, the page had raised $28,000 of its $100,000 goal.
CORRECTION: A previous version of the article stated that Evan Cook is a relative of the McClintock family. In fact, he is the brother of the restaurant’s manager, Joel Cook. The McClintock’s own the Old Marina Restaurant’s building and act as its landlord.