By Graeme MacKay, Editorial Cartoonist, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday July 12, 1997
BURNING DESIRE TO WATCH
Everyone’s an armchair fire chief. As the plastic recycling plant burned to a shell, heaving an Apocalyptic cloud of smoke skyward, it seemed half of Hamilton gathered Wednesday night to gawk — and offer their firefighting expertise to anyone within earshot.
“What nimrod would put a hose right there? The smoke’s coming from over there, ” said one man, pointing agitatedly to where he felt Hamilton’s smoke-eaters should be paying attention.
“Why aren’t there any hoses along that wall? They should be hosing down the walls near that smokestack, ” said another, as he settled into a comfy patch of grass off of Ferguson Avenue North with his family.
But along with the complainers came an enthusiastic crowd of onlookers who were treated to one of the biggest and most spectacular fires in the city’s history as free entertainment.
Children played, families sat on blankets, others brought coolers and lawn chairs to sit and watch along the railway tracks and grassy knolls around the Wellington Street North Plastimet Inc. plant.
It seemed more like Victoria Day fireworks than a fire disaster.
People Ooooooh’ed and Ahhhhh’ed when walls started to collapse, or when the thick smoke coming from the fire scene temporarily changed from black to light grey and then back to black.
Area residents spilled on to their porches and tugged on beer and cola.
An enterprising ice cream vendor peddled into the area.
Dogs caught Frisbees. People laughed. Some children cried.
Driving was a nightmare as rubberneckers spent more time gazing at the plume of smoke than on the road, and the streets and sidewalks were jammed by people following the towering inferno to find the source of the fire.
A threesome of young pedestrians, picking their way along Barton Street towards the fire, were excitedly guessing the cause of the blaze.
“Maybe it’s a bomb! Or a plane crash!” offered one.
“Maybe the Mars probe crashed!” enthused another.
And with officials keeping mum on what might have sparked the fire causing all this commotion — who can argue with the Mars probe theory?
(Source: By Adrian Humphreys, Reporter Hamilton Spectator)