Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/3/2009 (4078 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
An estimated $1.2 million in damage was caused to the U of M's Duff Roblin building in a fire on Saturday, police said today.
Police also said at this stage of the investigation the cause of the fire is not being considered suspicious in nature.
The potentially explosive fire in the University of Manitoba building containing hundreds of dangerous laboratory chemicals forced emergency crews to evacuate parts of campus Saturday afternoon.
Thick black smoke billowed from the fourth floor of U of M's Duff Roblin building shortly after noon, and witnesses saw flames shooting from one of the upper floors.
Part of the building houses the department of zoology, where more than 250 hazardous chemicals are stored.
Bill Clark, Winnipeg Fire Department's assistant chief of operations, said fire crews were initially unaware the building contained hazardous materials. When university officials alerted them to the potential danger, Clark said crews were immediately called out of the building and a three-alarm event was called.
That prompted dozens of fire trucks, police cruisers, environmental crews, and the hazardous materials unit to descend on the Fort Garry campus.
Police quickly taped off Dysart Road to traffic, and students were forced to leave buildings in the immediate area. Within an hour, the entire U of M campus was closed to anyone trying to enter, including frantic parents wanting to pick up their children from music lessons or athletic events.
"It was very significant, it requires a large number of resources," Clark said.
"There were lots of materials burning."
Third-year zoology student Celina Tsang was sipping coffee in University Centre with two friends when the blaze broke out. Tsang walked outside and said she was stunned to see flames blowing out of windows in the laboratory where she usually studies.
"I walked out... and saw a bunch of smoke coming from Duff Roblin," Tsang said. "I realized I might not have my lab."
Tsang was to prepare for a mid-term exam in the lab next week, and wasn't sure whether any of the animal specimens were destroyed.
She said most of the animals in the building are dead, and are preserved with chemicals such as formaldehyde and other flammable substances to keep the bacteria out and the smell down.
Intense heat and the chemicals made it impossible for fire crews to tackle the blaze from the inside. Instead, Clark said crews opened up the side of the building to contain the blaze.
It worked, but the building suffered extensive damage. The fire was out by 3 p.m., but Clark said most of the building was damaged by smoke.
Environmental crews must test the air quality before investigators will be able to determine the cause of the blaze and estimate damages. No one was hurt.
The temporary evacuation caused headaches for students trying to prepare for mid-term exams and panicked parents whose children attend day camps or music practice on campus.
More than a dozen police cruisers set up a perimeter and blocked off access to every U of M entry point.
Sam Levy, a commerce student, was caught off guard when he discovered his group project -- due Monday -- would have to be put on hold.
"This is a fairly large project," Levy said. "I don't know what's going to happen now. I'll have to email the prof as soon as I get home."
Katherine Makl wasn't sure what to do when police told her she couldn't drive on campus to pick up her teenagers from music practice.
"I guess I'll have to call them and ask them to walk out," she said.
Police later organized a parent pick-up procedure, and more than 100 students enrolled in a Career Track Program were driven to the schools they were picked up from Saturday morning.
Some students who live on campus, such as Alicia Battcock, were nervous about how the evacuation would last.
"I have no idea what I'm going to do," said Battcock. "Someone said (it could be) hours."
Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.
Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.
To those who have made donations, thank you.
To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.
The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.
While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.
After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.
If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.
We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.