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Milltown, Head of Bay D’Espoir reeling after fires

The stench of burnt timber and plastic hung in the air as a search and rescue helicopter circled Bay D’Espoir Academy in Milltown Tuesday afternoon. The smell was almost as oppressive as the smoke, which still rose from the smouldering structure.

Firefighters water down hot spots Tuesday morning.

The unpleasantness was not exclusive to the senses.

The events of the early morning, and the allegation the fire was an act of arson, have people in this small community reeling.

“This sort of thing doesn’t happen in a small town,” said resident Gary Hickman. “Not here anyway.”

The elementary school has been gutted — nothing remains but the foundation and twisted steel beams.

Generations from the community have gone to school there, and generations more were expected to get their education there as well.
“It’s a very devastating incident. There’s a lot of students in that school, especially for the Grade 12 (students),” said Milltown resident Frances Hoskins. “I also have two more children that go to the school.”

Not a sight you want to see, Rene Jeddore said as three buildings in the community went up in flames.

Hoskins’ eldest daughter is a senior at Bay D’Espoir Academy. Mid-term exams are less than a week away, and dreams of a high school graduation have turned into a nightmare.

“It’s stressful. I’m supposed to graduate and I’m not really sure if that’s going to happen now,” Bay D’espoir Academy Student Rosie Hoskins told TC Media. “I only have one of my subjects home to study and the rest were in the school. So I don’t know where to go from here.”

Firefighters were on site at the school all day, monitoring the smouldering mess of twisted metal and concrete.

Fires at the RCMP detachment and town hall were extinguished earlier in the day.

With one suspect in custody, the town is left to wonder at the day’s events.
Most of the fire damage occurred on the second floor of the town hall.
The building is attached to the fire department.

Lower school

Firefighters acted quickly when the fire call came in at 4:20 a.m.

“This could have been very bad,” said Fire Chief Bob Woodman. “If we were much later getting the call we could have lost the fire trucks.”

In all, five departments responded to the fires, which are believed to be the work of an arsonist. Donald Machaight, 48, of Morrisville, is in custody, awaiting a bail hearing in Grand Falls-Windsor on Thursday. He faces three counts of arson.

Firefighters from the Milltown, Conne River, St. Alban’s, Harbour Breton and St. Jacques-Coomb’s Cove fire departments responded to the call.

“This morning everything all came together very quickly. We had one call after another and we realized we’re going to need some help,” said Woodman.

He added that the events of the early morning are still hard to comprehend.

“Where everything happened so fast, it seemed so surreal,” said Woodman. “So many buildings where it was happening.”

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