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North Alton business owner recovering from thefts, destructive fire

James Martell fears his young family is not the only local family that stands to be impacted in the aftermath of a recent fire and thefts at the North Alton warehouse associated with his plumbing and heating business.
James Martell fears his young family is not the only local family that stands to be impacted in the aftermath of a recent fire and thefts at the North Alton warehouse associated with his plumbing and heating business. - Contributed
NORTH ALTON, N.S. —

James Martell doesn’t skip a beat when asked to describe the potential impact of a recent fire and break-in at his small business.

“Catastrophic,” he says.

Martell was still in a state of shock April 24, two days after an early-morning fire started in a parked work van and spread to the nearby North Alton warehouse that houses his plumbing and heating business.

The L-shaped building, a former church, is located at the corner of Prospect Road and Highway 12.

Flames crawled up what is now a heavily charred wall and extended into the building’s attic space.

Firefighters from multiple Kings County departments responded to a vehicle and warehouse fire in North Alton around 5:20 a.m. April 22. (Ian Swinamer photo)
Firefighters from multiple Kings County departments responded to a vehicle and warehouse fire in North Alton around 5:20 a.m. April 22. (Ian Swinamer photo)

Martell says fire, smoke and water damage is evident throughout the structure that is still standing after multiple Kings County fire departments teamed up to battle the blaze called in around 5:20 a.m.

“The fire went up into the roof trusses, so we have to have an engineer look at that to see if it’s salvageable.”

And it gets worse.

Martell learned after the fire that a number of items were missing from inside the building, including heat pumps, expensive power tools, refrigeration equipment, used air conditioners, a generator, extension cords and ladders.

All told, he estimates the stolen items would be worth roughly $25,000 collectively.

“We’re out all of that equipment and I need to somehow find the money to buy new,” says Martell.  “We have $15,000 worth of tool insurance but, when you go through insurance, they depreciate the value of the tool.”

He fears there’s no way of coming out of the ordeal without suffering a financial loss, even with assistance from his insurance provider.

“I don’t know if it’s completely hit me yet,” he says.

Martell’s wife, Emily, briefly alluded to how their young family stands to be impacted in a Facebook post published April 23.

“This small business feeds, houses and clothes three little girls. It pays for dance and gymnastics classes, piano lessons and summer camp,” the post reads.

Again, it gets worse.

The ripple effect will be felt by multiple local families.

“We have six men that work for us who, a lot of them, are single-income earners supporting their young families with children,” says Martell.

He is hoping insurance coverage will soften the blow, but to what extent remains to be seen.

He recommends fellow property owners carefully review insurance policies and consider security cameras and fencing.

“There’s no way that we’re going to come out even to what we had,” he says.

“I would definitely plan for worst-case scenario instead of best-case scenario if I were to review an insurance policy and security on a building.”

Halifax District RCMP Cpl. Lisa Crouteau issued a statement April 24 indicating that the investigation into what caused the fire is ongoing.

Crouteau confirms, however, that two South Alton men are facing charges in relation to a reported break-in at a business located on Prospect Road in North Alton.

The men, ages 52 and 72, stand accused of single counts of break and enter and possession of stolen property following a house search in South Alton April 23.

“Kings District RCMP conducted a search of a home in South Alton in regards to a separate break and enter investigation that occurred April 11, 2019,” the RCMP release reads.

“During the search, police recovered some of the missing items and arrested two men at the home without incident. They were the only people at the residence at the time.”

The RCMP statement says several items were reported missing, including a GE Profile dishwasher, seven Samsung air conditioners, a shower surround with plastic panels, four Firestone tires and multiple tools.

In addition to seeking information about the incidents in North Alton, RCMP are also asking for tips relating to a fire that broke out in a car parked behind Avery’s in Greenwich shortly after 6 a.m. April 23.

“The fire was extinguished and deemed suspicious,” says Crouteau.

Kings District RCMP can be reached at 902-679-5555, and anonymous tips can be submitted to Nova Scotia Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-222-8477.

RELATED: Vehicle fire spreads to nearby warehouse in North Alton

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