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Vacant building gutted by fire

Nearby apartment complex evacuated

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 7/4/2015 (718 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A building that had stood at 44 Hargrave St. for 105 years was gone in barely an hour Monday night -- flame, soot, smoke and ashes choking the skies for a block in every direction.

The fire broke out just before 7 p.m. and quickly engulfed the vacant four-storey structure. The smoke was a black blight over downtown and visible across Winnipeg.

John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press 
Fire crews work to extinguish a blaze in a vacant building on Hargrave Street Monday.

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press Fire crews work to extinguish a blaze in a vacant building on Hargrave Street Monday. Purchase Photo Print

Firefighters were able to save the apartment building at 42 Hargrave to the immediate south. The residents were quickly evacuated just in case.

"The firefighters were able to prevent the fire from extending," said deputy fire chief Joe Seewald, who had more than 40 firefighters and 13 pieces of equipment fighting the blaze. With no chance to save the structure, firefighters immediately took up defensive positions to keep it from spreading.

An hour after the fire started, all that was left were a few chunks of brick walls. Yet, flames still billowed from the last surviving pieces of wood.

"There's nothing holding the walls. We're having someone come in to push the walls in" Monday night, Seewald said. Only then would he start to consider letting neighbours return to their apartments and let investigators get near the ruins.

A Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service release confirmed the building was vacant and there were no injuries. It said the cause of the fire was under investigation and no damage estimate was yet available.

Some neighbours thought the building was scheduled to be demolished; others thought it was being renovated. They couldn't agree how long the building had been vacant, but there was a consensus it had been years.

"There's been workers in there daily dismantling the building," said one neighbour, who previously had seen squatters there.

There was high wooden fencing around the building.

"It was being worked on," Seewald said. "It was a large fire. The building was vacant -- there was a lot of empty space for the flames to spread."

Area residents said there had been squatters until recently when construction crews began working inside daily. One Hargrave resident said he'd reported to police he'd seen about seven young teenagers hanging around the building before the fire broke out.

One blogger -- demonhotelofhargrave.blogspot.ca -- has claimed for years the building was haunted and reported it opened in 1910 as Kenilworth Court.

Seewald said there was no sign of anyone inside the burning building.

One man whose basement window was almost touching distance to the building said his windows had already shattered when police came to pound on his door.

"The heat was so intense that my windows blew in. My curtains caught the glass," said the man, who declined to give his name. "All my stuff is gone."

A block to the west, people living in apartments on Carlton Street watched in fear and fascination as firefighters kept the conflagration from getting away. So many hoses soaked 44 Hargrave it appeared to be raining water and ashes 200 metres away.

 

-- with files from Mary Agnes Welch

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by Nick Martin.

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