Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'There might be nothing left'

Cause sought in $5-million mansion blaze

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Fire investigators continued to sift through the charred remains of a storied Wellington Crescent home on Monday, searching for the cause of a $5-million blaze that destroyed a Winnipeg family's "dream home."

The recently redesigned mansion at 1021 Wellington Cres. sustained massive damage after catching fire early Sunday. There were no injuries reported.

A large contingent of fire crews, police and other emergency responders were called to the riverside property around 6:20 a.m. to battle what appeared to be a very stubborn blaze that tore through the roof.

"We're very much shaken right now," the home's owner, Karl Dornetshuber, said in a brief interview by phone not long after the fire broke out.

He, his wife and two children had taken a trip to Edmonton over the weekend.

"There might be nothing left," said Dornetshuber, the owner of Marquette Gravel Supply. The family moved into the home in 2009. It was a "dream house" for them, he said.

Dornetshuber spoke with Winnipeg police Sunday morning and was making attempts to try to get a flight home.

Dornetshuber said he was relieved no one was hurt. The family immigrated to Canada from Austria in 2009, according to neighbours.

Winnipeg police said there were no apparent injuries and a financial estimate of damage was not yet available. Arson strike force members were called to the blaze for their investigative skills and not because the fire has been deemed suspicious.

"By no means are we identifying this as an arson," Const. Jason Michalyshen said.

Firefighters remained at the scene well into Sunday evening and continued to try to snuff out the smouldering fire. A large perimeter was set up, blocking access to the crescent between Montrose and Ash streets.

Neighbour Daren Jorgenson expressed relief nobody was hurt and indicated the damage to the family's home was very sad to see.

The home was completely renovated in 2009 and "thoroughly modernized" on the inside, according to a design profile from Winnipeg-based Syverson Monteyne Architecture.

"This massive investment of time and energy was motivated by the new owner's desire to make a comfortable and stylish home for his young family in Canada. Immigrating to Canada from Europe, the new residents brought their sense of style as well as several containers full of construction materials, furniture and fixtures," the profile said.

"The existing house was stripped down to the studs to allow the new additions to be well-integrated," said the firm.

The mansion, given its stately history, has made headlines several times over the last decade. In September 2004, it was featured in the Free Press when it landed on the market for what was a massive listing price at the time.

"The home has through the years been owned by some of the most wealthy of Winnipeg's citizens, families with the names of Sures, Smith, Peterson, Halter, Sifton and Asper," Gloria Taylor wrote.

It was then priced for sale at $1.9 million -- at a time when the most anyone had ever paid for a Manitoba home was $1.7 million.

The house was built by Lount Construction, owned by construction magnate Frank Lount, in 1933.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 18, 2014 0


Updated on Tuesday, February 18, 2014 at 6:48 AM CST: Replaces photo, adds video

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