A Tignish historic landmark was extensively damaged by a fire Sunday afternoon. 

Residents stood onlooking as firefighters from three West Prince departments put out a blaze at Eugene’s General Store on Oct. 6.

Tignish Fire Chief Allan Gavin said the fire started around noon.

He said someone alerted the staff inside the open store about the fire and a person inside the upstairs apartment was able to get out.

Mr Gavin said the cause of the fire is still undetermined, but added it appears the fire might have started upstairs.

As soon as his department arrived on scene, a call was made for mutual aid, with Alberton and Miminegash departments providing back up.

Witnesses at the scene said they saw at one point flames shooting out of the front roof area of the building and the front top windows. Another witness said they saw people running out of the building when the fire was first discovered.

Edwin Edeza was living in the apartment above the store with his sister.

He was at work at Royal Star Foods when he got a call telling him the Church Street building was on fire. He immediately rushed to the scene upon hearing the news.

His sister was home at the time of the fire, but managed to get out of the apartment to safety.

From the Philippines, Mr Edeza said he and sister had been living above the store for about a year and a half.

Next door, at Harper’s Automotive, Valerie Harper was working at the front counter when someone came into the building saying there was a fire at the general store.

When she came around the counter and saw smoke coming from the building next door, Ms Harper immediately turned off the gas station’s pumps.

Among those watching the firefighters was PEI’s Lieutenant Governor and Tignish native Antoinette Perry. She was home visiting when she heard about the fire.

Ms Perry’s parents once owned the long-time business.

“It was a gathering place for all of the Tignish characters because they were all characters,” she said fondly.

Ms Perry called the store one of the oldest landmarks in Tignish.

Built in 1939, the store was originally owned by a Bernard family. Ms Perry’s parents, Eugene and Anne Marie Perry, took over in 1948, renting the store until they were able to buy it outright in 1951 naming it E.C. Perry’s, and running it until selling the store in 1976.

Ms Perry’s parents moved into the upstairs apartment in 1951, where she herself was born.

For 10 years the business was out of the hands of the Perry family until Ms Perry’s brother Tommy and his wife Joanne bought it in 1986.

The former owners then sold it to Carter Morrissey and his father Joey in January 2018.

Ms Perry’s brother Tommy was at the scene as well but did not wish to speak.

Current owner and manager of the store Carter Morrissey said he was inside the store working when the fire broke out.

“Customers came in and said the building was on fire,” he said.

Mr Morrissey said he and his staff immediately got out.

The provincial fire marshal is on scene investigating. 

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