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Young patients back in beds after fire forces evacuation of Children's Hospital

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Young patients evacuated overnight from Children's Hospital were back in their beds within hours at 8 a.m. this morning.

The hospital was evacuated, including babies and sick children in intensive care, as a precaution after a fire sent smoke into children's wards at Health Sciences Centre.

None of the 92 children moved, nor staff and the many parents on hand, reported any injuries. The only injury was to a firefighter.

The cause of the blaze has not been determined.

"We were very fortunate. The fire department were able to contain the fire to the construction site. We had a lot of smoke inhalation into Children’s Hospital which was the cause for the evacuation. Some cleanup is required but very little damage to Children’s Hospital," Children’s COO Dana Erickson said today.

Even some of the surgeries that Children’s Hospital initially cancelled are going ahead as scheduled. And the kids? They were pretty much all back in their beds by 8 a.m., Erickson said.

"Although it was a fairly extensive fire, with fairly extensive damage, we think to the construction site, it really had a minimal impact on us," Erickson said.

The site of the fire meanwhile is another story.

Damage has now been pegged at more than $1 million.

Erickson has been told the fire was extensive and the damage could be enough to push back the opening date for a new urgently needed medical diagnostic building for the province’s trauma centre.

"That’s a worry," he acknowledged. The new diagnostic imagining centre was due to open in the spring of 2014.

Fire had to be contained on all four storeys of the new building under construction.

The fire broke out shortly after 11 p.m. according to the latest information shared with senior hospital officials in the aftermath of the nighttime evacuation.

Smoke from the fire first filtered into parts of Children’s Hospital, prompting the evacuation within an hour. By midnight it was underway, with exhaust fans being moved in the get rid of the smoke, building up in the hospital.

Night staff, including parents who often stay with their sick kids at night, moved patients together, to parts of the hospital well out of the path of the smoke.

The adult ER closed its door temporarily to all but the most serious trauma patients while firefighters fought the blaze. The construction site is located in an area of the Health Sciences Complex that links Children’s and the adult ER so fire trucks and related equipment made it hard for ambulances to get to the ER.

"Our Children’s ER is fully reopened. Our inpatient units are moving back. As a precaution. . . we’d started to cancel some of our elective surgeries for today, a total of 20 but actually, the way it’s turned out, we’ve actually been able to still have about half of those surgeries happen. So, fairly minimal impact, actually," Erickson said.

The evacuation turned out to be a excellent way to assess the hospital emergency plan and Children's clocked it at 30 minutes, not the initial 90 minutes that officials initially reported.

"As you can imagine, the shorter the better when you come to a high risk situation." Erickson said.

"I was very impressed with the professionalism and efficiency of our staff."

The young patients were moved throughout the hospital, wherever there was room for them and the services they required.


Did you see the fire, or were your children in the hospital? The Free Press wants to speak to you.  Email us at, or call 204-697-7292.

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Updated on Wednesday, March 6, 2013 at 10:50 AM CST: Updated and new headline

1:00 PM: Adds damage estimate.

2:19 PM: Adds picture.

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