Richardson Building shuttered as fire repairs continue
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/07/2022 (313 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A weekend fire in the downtown Winnipeg underground knocked two radio stations off the air and has left businesses and offices inside and below the Richardson Building uncertain of when they will be able to reopen.
CBC 89.3 FM and University of Manitoba campus station UMFM 101.5 have been out of service in the aftermath of the fire which broke out in a restaurant in the underground concourse at about 7:30 p.m. Sunday. The transmitter tower for both stations is on the roof of 1 Lombard Pl., for years the city’s tallest.
As well, everything from the Winnipeg Foundation to CIBC offices and downtown branch to Hy’s Steak House to the head office of Richardson International Ltd. remained closed Tuesday or had staff working from home.
Jared McKetiak, UMFM station manager, said he doesn’t know when it will be back on the air. (The station can currently be streamed through its online site.)
“We’re just waiting,” McKetiak said. “The issues were not caused by the fire. It’s because of the electrical system. It has to be looked at.
“It’s tough because our hands are tied. It’s out of our control.”
McKetiak added UMFM “will be reviewing our current technical set up and will look at putting in a backup transmitter at a different location. This is the first time this has happened in 22 years, but we don’t want to be off air for multiple days ever again.”
Firefighters rushed to the Fairmont hotel for a smoke alarm call, but quickly realized the blaze wasn’t in the hotel at 2 Lombard Pl. but below it.
It was so hot Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service reported, despite alternating crew members, one firefighter had to be treated onsite for heat-related injuries. There were no other injuries reported.
Smoke seeping into the hotel also forced former Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman John Fogerty, 77, to go down 14 flights of stairs — without time to get his shoes — shortly before his concert at Canada Life Centre. (He mentioned the incident during the show.)
Craig Dunsire, general manager of the Richardson Building, said the blaze damaged its main electrical systems. He said no date has been set for when the business hub will reopen.
“Though there was minimal damage to the concourse area… (the) electrical systems did experience significant damage,” Dunsire said.
“The building remains without power while crews work diligently to repair and restore the electrical service. Limited backup power is in place to ensure the operation of basic security and life safety requirements.”
Gemma Peralta, a senior communications officer with CBC, said the local station’s problems began when the power suddenly went out in the Richardson Building at about 10:30 p.m. Sunday.
“At that time, our TV signal went down, but CBC TV was still made available through CBC Gem and through cable providers,” Peralta said.
“Our FM service remained operational for approximately 10 hours, relying on backup battery power, before going offline. Our (990) AM service remains operational and this is where we have been directing audiences… We have technicians on standby to ensure a rapid restoration of service once the power’s back on.”
While its FM tower is on top of the Richardson Building, its AM tower is located in Springstein, about 20 kilometres west of Winnipeg.
Jeff Li, owner of Marcello’s Market and Deli, on the concourse below the Richardson Building, said he doesn’t yet know what caused the fire in the ceiling above his restaurant.
“We are closed on weekends — we don’t know what happened,” Li said Tuesday. “It was in the ceiling, so probably it was electrical… we don’t know what damage (occurred).
“We’re waiting to find out when we can go in. We’ll clean up and then, after inspections, we’ll see when we can reopen.”
Sky Bridges, chief executive officer of the Winnipeg Foundation, said staff are thankful everyone is safe and the building’s property manager is working hard on repairs.
“One of the many things the (COVID-19) pandemic has taught us is how to successfully work remotely, so it really hasn’t been that much of an inconvenience for our staff,” Bridges said, noting the organization’s offices are on the 13th floor.
“We’ve communicated with our constituents on all our platforms to let them know the situation as it unfolds. The only inconvenience for us is our Foundation telephone lines are currently down.”
City of Winnipeg spokeswoman Michelle Lancaster said fire crews worked with building managers Sunday to ventilate the buildings above the concourse, as needed.
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.
Updated on Tuesday, July 19, 2022 5:33 PM CDT: Adds photo
Updated on Tuesday, July 19, 2022 9:46 PM CDT: Corrects location of 990 AM tower.