Flames ravage Arnprior home.
Flames breathe through the window of an Arnprior home. The housefire claimed the life of a dog, but five residents escaped safely.
It didn’t take long for the community to rally in support of Ken Scissons and his tenants devastated by a nasty fire last Friday afternoon.
The blaze just off the corner of McGonigal and John streets in Arnprior destroyed the home owned by Scissons and left five people homeless (see Page 31).
It was the latest in a series of blows suffered by Scissons, who lost his son to illness last month. His daughter Sheila, who lost her dog in the fire, was one of those left homeless.
The 83-year-old Scissons, who lives next door behind his small restaurant, Ken’s Kitchen, is himself suffering from heart problems.
Fortunately, Arnprior firefighters were able to prevent the fire from spreading to his restaurant and on the other side to Scheel Communications.
When word spread that the Scissons family has suffered another setback, and only 10 days before Christmas at that, several local businesses took up the cause.
Leading the way was Arnprior Sears owner John Purdon. He not only volunteered to collect money at his store in the Arnprior Mall for the residents of the home hit by fire, but agreed to match all donations made last weekend.
He reported that about $1,000 was contributed, meaning the fire victims will receive $2,000. And although the matching time period is over, the Sears outlet is continuing to accept donations right through this Sunday.
The store, being in a high traffic area at the mall, is a natural spot to collect donations, he said.
Purdon explained that he decided to collect and match donations because he and his staff felt for the plight of the victims, particularly as it’s so close to Christmas. Furthermore, Scissons deserves a boost, he said, noting, “Ken’s a real nice guy … a salt of the earth type who has always taken care of people.”
Purdon said it is evident that many people feel the same way about Scissons. When people saw the posters up around the mall and the Sears Facebook message saying his store was accepting donations, many came in to contribute, he said.
He said he was surprised how many people donated significant amounts. One man came in Monday with $100 and several dropped off $50 on the weekend, he said.
“People were very generous.”
As for Purdon and his staff, “it is a good feeling that we were able to do it,” he said. “It feels pretty good.”
Purdon contacted the Red Cross, which suggested the money be distributed through the Arnprior Legion. The Legion jumped at the chance to help, he said.
So have other local businesses, including Fraser Towing. “Ken is a long-time customer, a long-time friend,” said Jim Fraser, explaining why he has a donation jar out at his business.
“He (Ken Scissons) has helped more people than you can shake a stick at.”
Scissons has provided free meals for countless people and often put them up for the night, he said. “He has been like that (generous) his whole life. He’s a super guy.”
Fraser said the loss of a home to fire is difficult to cope with at any time, but it is especially hard at Christmas.
The donations at Fraser’s will go toward helping Scissons deal with the loss of his property.
Several other businesses including Shopper’s Drug Mart, Jim’s Restaurant and Giant Tiger are also collecting money for the victims of the fire.
Shopper’s Drug Mart customers can use a special bar code to make donations by adding an amount to their bill.
The Opportunity Shop is also helping out by donating basic household items to the victims.
Meanwhile, stories abound about Scissons providing meals to people who could only afford a coffee. As one story goes, an elderly gentlemen used to come in regularly to the restaurant and order a meal, but while he tipped the waitress, he rarely had enough money to pay the bill.
Scissons let it continue without complaint. One day the man’s family heard the story and quietly paid for any food their father ate from then on.
As one friend says, “he has a heart of gold.”
At least five people are homeless after a Friday afternoon fire that proved challenging for local firefighters.
Heavy smoke billowed into the sky from the home on McGonigal Street, which is owned by Ken Scissons, who lived beside the burned building in the now-closed Ken’s Kitchen.
Arnprior Fire Chief John Okum said it was a difficult fire to tackle.
There hasn’t been a dollar figure attached to the damage, but the building is destroyed.
There were no injuries reported, although one firefighter was examined for smoke inhalation and a pet dog perished in the blaze.
Five regular boarders and a sixth person who stayed there from time to time have been left homeless.
The call came in shortly after 1 p.m. and firefighters were on scene within minutes.
“The members responded very quickly and within a minute of being paged they were there,” said Okum.
“It was a very old, heavy-timber construction, two-storey home,” said Okum. “When we arrived there was heavy smoke coming from the basement and the first floor.”
Firefighters assessed the scene and did a rapid search of the home to rule out the possibility of anyone being inside.
“We had an unconfirmed report of a female who was possibly inside,” said Okum. When firefighers were able to rule that out, it was a matter of reading smoke conditions and ventilating the fire, said Okum.
“We had to break windows and cut open the roof,” he said. “It was difficult.”
“The fire extended very quickly because of the type of construction,” said Okum. “It spread to the first and second floors very quickly.”
Renfrew County paramedics remained on-scene all afternoon to assess firefighters and one individual was directed to hospital for further examination for smoke inhalation.
“He was checked out and was fine,” said Okum.
There were about 12 town firefighters on-scene and about 10 more responded from McNab-Braeside when the chief called for mutual aid. Several more firefighters joined crews as the afternoon wore on.
Arnprior OPP officers also helped manage the scene and Red Cross and the Victim Services of Renfrew County responded quickly to help those displaced by the fire.
The Red Cross helped for 72 hours after the fire as is its mandate, then handed the task over to local organizations, such as the Arnprior Legion, to help distribute funds raised for the victims.
“We all worked very well together,” said Okum. “We had great support.”
The community came forward in a big way, too, said the chief.
The nearby Arnprior Legion, which had a turkey supper in the works, invited firefighters to come by and eat in shifts. A neighbour brought Tim Hortons coffee for the men.
A big thanks to all those who helped, said Okum.
The fire was put out by about 6 p.m. but crews remained on-scene overnight.
The fire caused the temporary evacuation of some businesses on McGonigal and the power was out in the block until mid-evening.
Fortunately, the firefighters were able to prevent the fire from spread to Scheel Communications next door despite the prevailing wind blowing that way. The thick smoke did mean the company had to use a great deal of Febreze the next morning when they reopened.
One resident said he was told the fire was caused by a furnace problem. However, the cause of the fire is still under investigation, said Okum.