Firefighters brought in two aerial ladders to help battle a stubborn fire at the former Nygard warehouse on Notre Dame Avenue Tuesday.
"We’ve got some of the heavy hitters here, the ladders, and we’ve still got fire inside of the building," said Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service district chief Dick Vlaming outside 1340 Notre Dame Ave. hours after the fire began at 6 a.m.
"The building is compromised right now, and it could collapse, so we have a collapse zone around it."
Notre Dame was closed in both directions between Weston and Flint streets for much of the day and reopened for the afternoon rush hour.
No one was hurt in the fire, and the cause was under investigation. No damage estimate was available, but the city said the building sustained major structural damage, including parts that collapsed and were brought down by heavy equipment.
Fire crews worked with a private company to demolish part of the building to extinguish the blaze. The fire was declared under control early Tuesday afternoon.
Vlaming said crews were worried about large propane tanks that had fallen into the building. The tanks had been set up by workers who were repairing the roof. It is possible they broke through the roof after the blaze began, Vlaming said.
"It sounds like the tanks went inside. They didn’t explode or anything. It sounds like we’re keeping them cool by the water," he said.
Fire crews were expected to remain at the scene to monitor any flare-ups Tuesday night, the City of Winnipeg said in a news release that evening.
The property was listed for sale in 2020 after fashion mogul Peter Nygard was charged with sex crimes by U.S. authorities. The property is one of several owned by the Nygard companies that were approved for sale under receivership.
Nygard consented to being extradited to the U.S. earlier this month. He remains in custody in Manitoba and is facing sex charges in Toronto.
In June 2020, Nygard’s lawyer claimed the Notre Dame warehouse contained an apartment that was his primary Winnipeg residence, and thus protected by COVID-19 legislation that prohibited landlords from evicting tenants at the time, in an attempt to halt its sale to Mist Holdings Inc.
However, a judge approved the sale, saying there was no evidence Nygard lived there and that the property was not zoned for residential use.
Nygard said he had attempted to buy or rent the property from the receiver, but the judge called his offer "not reasonable or practical under the circumstances."
The space, which includes the 69,000 square foot warehouse and two smaller buildings, originally went on the market for $5.2 million.
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.