It was a spectacular blaze that created a fireball visible for kilometres, forced the evacuation of hundreds of residents and caused $15 million worth of damage.
Now the city says the October 2012 inferno at Speedway International was a preventable incident that should have legal consequences.
The biofuels manufacturer and its director, Royce Rostecki, were hit with 16 charges Friday. The offences are under the Winnipeg Building Bylaw and the City of Winnipeg Fire Prevention Bylaw. Speedway faces a maximum fine of $40,000 if convicted of all charges, while Rostecki could be hit with $8,000 in penalties. The first court appearance is set for June 27. None of the allegations has been proven and the company and director are presumed innocent.
The city wouldn't comment on the charges Friday and Rostecki couldn't be reached from comment.
Following the fire, the city and province squabbled over the disclosure and inspection of flammable materials that ignited. In 2000, the company was granted a permit to produce windshield-wiper fluid and should have informed the city of any changes, said WFPS acting deputy chief Bill Clark, who's in charge of fire operations for the fire-paramedic service.
"They did not achieve a permit for production for biofuel," Clark said at the time. He said the site was last inspected in 2001 in response to a complaint. No further inspections were conducted because it is up to property owners to disclose any changes.
Speedway International released a statement following the blaze claiming the firm made every effort to obtain the permits it needed to expand into biodiesel manufacturing. It submitted architectural and engineering drawings to the city in 2008 as part of requested changes to its occupancy permit, according to a statement issued by a Vancouver public-relations firm.
"After filing the change in occupancy paperwork and making the required operational changes, Speedway International operated under the assumption that it had fulfilled its requirements with the city and province," the firm said in its statement.
Provincial fire investigators say spontaneous combustion led to the fire at the site, which had a provincial environmental licence to manufacture biodiesel. Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship confirmed it did not issue a permit to store chemicals at the site, as Speedway International fell below a 5,000-litre regulatory threshold. Instead, the manufacturer stored biodiesel and methanol in 200-litre drums. The night of the fire, a 75,000-litre tanker truck full of methanol also exploded.
Tory conservation critic Larry Maguire said the communication breakdown between the city and province led to Speedway's failure to obtain a provincial permit to store biofuel, leading to the absence of inspections and a proper fire-safety plan. Maguire said the province took credit for setting up the business, which has received $779,000 in provincial subsidies, but didn't enforce the law. "To not have had an inspection in over 10 years in this particular location is not acceptable," he said.
Labour Minister Jennifer Howard, responsible for the fire commissioner's office, responded: "The responsibility for the enforcement of the fire code rests with the municipality. They have jurisdiction. They also have responsibility for zoning."
How accusations stack up
THE following eight charges have been laid in duplicate against Speedway International and its director, Royce Rostecki:
Under the Winnipeg Building Bylaw:
Unlawfully permitting all or parts of the building or structures located on the premises to be in an unsafe condition;
Unlawfully occupying/using a building or a part thereof without first obtaining the required building occupancy permit;
Unlawfully changing the occupancy of the premises without first obtaining the required building occupancy permit.
Under the City of Winnipeg Fire Prevention Bylaw:
Failing to obtain consent of the chief of the fire paramedic service and a permit to install storage tanks containing flammable liquids;
Failing to provide secondary containment for a stationary rail car used as an above-ground flammable liquid storage tank;
Failing to provide sufficient distance between a stationary rail car above-ground storage tank and a building;
Failing to provide fencing for flammable-liquid unloading facilities;
Storing flammable liquids in excess of maximum quantities permitted.