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This article was published 5/12/2017 (195 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Two neighbours of an apartment building on Furby Street, entombed in ice after firefighters battled a blaze there overnight Monday, say it was a magnet for trouble and drugs, and bid good riddance to the structure.
"There’s too much crime," said Richard Bisson, who lives a few doors down from the three-storey walk-up on Furby between Ellice and Sargent avenues.
"I have a four-year-old and a nine-month-old, and I’m happy this place burned down," he said outside the ruined building late Tuesday afternoon, alleging the apartment block was a haven for drug users and dealers.
Winnipeg police were not available Tuesday night to comment on whether it was considered a high-crime building.
City officials were at the scene Tuesday afternoon. Before one of them closed the front door of the badly damaged building, passersby could see a giant spray-painted face inside the foyer.
"There’s graffiti all over the walls inside there," said area resident Rob Berard.
Berard and Bisson said they watched as Winnipeg fire crews battled the large apartment blaze through the night.
Firefighters were still at work during Tuesday morning’s rush hour, disrupting traffic and flooding back lanes.
The fire broke out around 10:30 p.m. in the apartment building on the 400 block of Furby Street in the West End. Emergency crews arrived to find a number of residents calling for assistance from their windows.
Firefighters set up ladders and cleared windows to remove occupants from the third floor, but instead were able to control the fire enough to escort residents down the stairs and out to safety.
About a dozen people came out of the building. Of those, six had to be rescued and three went to hospital, said Andre Berard, assistant chief of service quality for the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service.
The three people taken to hospital — two in stable condition and one unstable — suffered smoke inhalation, the assistant chief said. Other evacuees were sheltered inside buses supplied by Winnipeg Transit.
The decision was made within an hour to go into defensive mode and fight the fire from the exterior, but not before crews did a complete search for other possible occupants, Andre Berard said.
"The fire had spread through possible cavities in the older-construction building," added Ihor Holowczynsky, assistant fire chief of rescue operations.
The building was covered in ice by the time firefighters were finished, looking like a giant Festival du Voyageur ice sculpture. The power and phone lines running to the apartment looked like strings of icicles.
A woman residing across the street said the fire and efforts to extinguish it kept her up all night. Traffic was closed at Furby Street and Ellice Avenue through the night and morning, disrupting rush-hour traffic.
City of Winnipeg public works staff arrived on the scene at about 3 a.m. Tuesday to unblock the frozen drains on the street. The back lane between Furby and McMicken streets flooded with knee-deep water, and crews were still trying to unblock the drain at about 9:30 a.m. Some backyards along the stretch of lane were flooded.
A firefighter was observed chipping a five-centimetre thick layer of ice off the back of a pumper truck parked in the lane. A huge branch from a large tree in a small park next door made a loud cracking sound before it fell from the weight of water turned to ice from pumper truck spray.
The duration of the fire had to do with colder temperatures, which increase the intensity of the fire, and the apartment being an older building, fire officials said.
"There’s more oxygen available for fires to burn," Holowczynsky said. Winter also hampers firefighters. "It’s a little tougher to manage conditions. Things ice up."
In older constructions "there are a lot of concealed spaces where fire can travel, and by the time it becomes evident where it is, it may be too late," Holowczynsky said.
Two pumper trucks sprayed water on the building through the night and into late morning.
One side of an apartment building next door was coated with ice from residual spray. It had to be evacuated at around 3 a.m. when the basement flooded and the power had to be shut down.
The fire is still under investigation, and as of Tuesday afternoon the fire department had yet to make a damage estimate.
Bill Redekop is the Free Press rambling rural reporter. His beat is a bit like the slow food movement of news gathering.
Updated on Tuesday, December 5, 2017 at 6:11 AM CST: Corrects typo
6:25 AM: Updates
6:43 AM: Updates with more info on road closures
6:53 AM: Corrects location of fire
8:49 AM: Adds photo
1:09 PM: Writethru, adds slideshow
1:21 PM: Adds byline
9:13 PM: Full write through, adds photos