Update: Arson suspected in barn fire; concerns raised about historic farm in Mississauga

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Published October 11, 2023 at 3:18 pm

conover barn fire mississauga
Photo: Mississauga/Peel Ward 5 Councillor Ward Carolyn Parrish

The loss of a historic Mississauga barn to a massive fire has led to a discussion on the poor condition of other heritage buildings on the site.

The Conover Barn, at 5576 Hurontario St., was destroyed in a blaze on Oct. 4. The barn was part of a heritage farm on the Old Britannia School House property.

“The barn is a complete loss; it burnt right down to the ground,” said John Dunlop, City of Mississauga manager for Indigenous relations, heritage and museums during an update to the Heritage Advisory Committee on Oct. 10.

Dunlop said the city is working with Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services as they go through their investigation. The cause has not yet been determined.

“Obviously, arson is suspected because there was no weather or any other acts of God (that evening),” Dunlop said.

In statement sent to insauga.com on Oct. 12, Fire Chief Deryn Rizzi, said the cause of the fire is classified as undetermined.

Both the Office of the Fire Marshal and Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services, “that, based on the extent of the damage and lack of injuries or fatalities associated with the fire, there was not a reasonable prospect of accurately determining the origin of the fire through fire scene examination.”

Rizzi added that there is a low likelihood of determining the cause of the fire and investigators won’t pursue further scene examination.

“Without the ability to properly process the fire scene and analyze the data we are not able to make any inferences regarding the probable cause of the fire,” the chief said. “We have classified this fire as undetermined.”

But the Fire Investigations Team is continuing with the collection of some information relating to the event, however it is not known if this will change the outcome of the investigation.

The Peel District School Board owns the property and Dunlop indicated not much can be done now, the barn is gone, but it could be a spark to save the other buildings on the property.

“This can, hopefully, be what is needed to jump-start a conversation with the (school) board about what is happening with the rest of those properties and finally having them take action in order to preserve them,” said Dunlop.

Two years ago, the property went through a heritage assessment for the LRT line. At that time, two heritage homes, the Gardner-Dunton house and farmhouse were both in poor condition. The barn and school house were in better condition.

barn fire mississauga

The Conover Barn.     Photo: Parslow Heritage Consultancy, Inc.

Ward 5 Councillor Carolyn Parrish said vandalism is suspected in the barn fire and that is, in part, due to the school board’s negligence. The houses have fallen into disrepair.

The house windows have never been painted so they are all destroyed, Parrish said. The roof on the farmhouse is old and leaks ruining the inside of the home.

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Damage to the windows on the Gardner-Dunton house.   Photo: Parslow Heritage Consultancy, Inc.

“They (the school board) have done nothing, zero, they haven’t put tarps on it, they haven’t done anything to protect it (the farmhouse),” Parrish said. “I think we need to make them do something immediately.”

Parrish said the board was looking at selling a portion of the property and using the funds to create an outdoor education centre.

The property is now zoned to allow residential and commercial development. When the school board sells the property they should stipulate the buyer takes care of moving the heritage buildings and pay for the upgrades, Parrish suggested.

britannia farm mississauga

The farmhouse.     Photo: Parslow Heritage Consultancy, Inc.

She also said the city gave permission to move the heritage buildings closer together.

Parrish suggested the city now withdraw that permission to put “pressure” on the board to do a “proper job of taking care of those houses…”

But Dunlop said that permission was in 2011 and has now expired.

britannia farm mississauga

The Gardner-Dunton house.     Photo: Parslow Heritage Consultancy, Inc.

Dunlop indicated the school board is responsible for the upkeep but haven’t allocated funding toward it. Recently, the board was under provincial supervision.

The Peel District School Board did not provide a comment on the upkeep of the property before publication.

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