Fire that damaged Sydney funeral home deemed suspicious
Published Monday, February 4, 2019 12:48PM AST
Last Updated Monday, February 4, 2019 9:29PM AST
A weekend fire that caused significant damage to a Sydney funeral home is now being investigated as an arson.
When flames shot through the roof of Chant's Funeral Home in Sydney on Saturday night, lot of people came to look, but the home's managing director was the first on scene.
“I had no words,” said Jill Nemis. “It's quite possibly one of the worst things that I've ever witnessed.”
As firefighters worked to put out the flames, Nemis had to break the news to owner Sheldon Chant, who was performing in a concert nearby.
She says he and his family are devastated.
“We're all just in shock,” Nemis said. “Just putting one foot in front of the other, but continuing to try and serve the families that we have on board with us this week.”
As investigators scoured the building for clues today, a certain irony dawned on some.
The Chants and their staff are usually the ones comforting others in times of grief. Now, there is an outpouring of community support for them.
A church is donating its space to allow a wake to take place as scheduled tonight.
“The chants are community-minded people who would do anything for anyone else,” said Father Patrick O'Neill of Our Lady of Fatima parish in Sydney River. “(They’d) give the shirts off their backs if they had to. So that's what Cape Breton is all about. We help each other, no matter who the person is.”
Nemis says all wakes and funerals scheduled for this week will still go ahead.
“We feel that we serve our community well,” said Nemis. “And they're definitely giving us that back ten-fold during our now time of need.”
Nemis said no remains or ashes were in the building when the fire broke out.
It's unclear what they'll be able to salvage, but they do have insurance.
For now, her message to the public is a simple thank you.
“The outpour that came through to me and to our website has just been overwhelming,” said Nemis. “And to see that we hold such a special place in peoples' hearts is really touching. Because a lot of people hold special places in our hearts, too.”
The investigation into the fire is ongoing.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Ryan MacDonald.