December 10, 2019

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North End warehouse blaze a 'kidney punch' for local artist

Once the smoke cleared from a massive overnight fire that demolished a North End warehouse, artists, musicians and small business owners were planning to dust themselves off and find new studio and rehearsal space.

Shawna Dempsey, a performing artist who shared a studio with her partner Lorri Millan, said she learned about the blaze at 274 Jarvis St. around 8:30 a.m. Monday morning. Dempsey said Millan described the news as "an unforeseen kidney punch when you're already down," adding that it is tough to be an artist at the best of times.

Dempsey said she and Millan are in shock, adding that they'll be sitting in silence until one of them remembers a piece that was lost in the fire.

There were around 30 different artists and musicians with studios in the two-and-a-half storey warehouse. There were no injuries reported in the fire, however some of the artists lost their life's work.

Dempsey noted that an artist's identity is what they create. Supplies can be replaced, she said, but many artists have lost their life's work.

Dempsey did say, however, that one of their studio mates is already looking for a new space. "At least the move will be easier," she said.

Click to Expand

Carriage Road Fire

As firefighters responded to the blaze on Jarvis Avenue, another fire occured around the same time near the Heritage Victoria Community Club on Carriage Road.

Lane said simultaneous alarms strain resources, because WFPS has to divide its available crew. He said instead of sending a full squad to a fire, they'll send one truck to each alarm, then crews will let them know if they need backup.

"The Carriage Road fire was significant, in that it was in a building that houses a number of disabled people," Lane said. "So the evacuation took quite a bit of staff and support from the Fire Paramedic Service.

"We were certainly degraded in terms of fire coverage for quite a period of time, but we did what we could."

Michael Wagner, a sound engineer who learned about the blaze before dawn, said the lost equipment and instruments belonging to himself and bands such as Dreadnaught and El Diablo would total about $75,000. Wagner said the equipment for his business was insured, but that insurance could never replace some of the items that were lost.

"My total loss — some of it was irreplaceable, like vintage guitars and recording equipment," he said.

Tara Everett has been trying to launch Canoe Coworking, a company that provides a space for people to conduct business, for two years and had recently signed a letter of intent to lease space in the warehouse but hadn't moved in before the building burned down.

"For me it was a loss of time and a loss of space," Everett said. "You don't just find 1,000 square feet close to the core like that.

She said this is not her first time losing a space, so the mindset is: regroup and find a new location.

HANDOUT / CITY OF WINNIPEG</p><p>The City of Winnipeg tweeted out a photo of the fire at a warehouse on Jarvis Avenue at 3:55 a.m. Monday.</p>

HANDOUT / CITY OF WINNIPEG

The City of Winnipeg tweeted out a photo of the fire at a warehouse on Jarvis Avenue at 3:55 a.m. Monday.

John Lane, chief of Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service, told reporters Monday morning that the fire alarm at the warehouse rang at about 12:43 a.m.

Neighbours affected

Click to Expand

Others affected by the Jarvis fire include people living at the Kekinan Centre, a seniors home on 100 Robinson Street.

Carrie Parenteau said she went to visit her mother on Monday, and the facility had no power. She says the facility does not have a generator, which is concerning because her mother requires an oxygen tank to live. Food is also going bad.

Parenteau said, according to her mother, someone has provided coffee and yogurt, but that's all that is available for people to eat.

She pleads that if people know someone staying in this facility, to check up on them.

WFPS assistant chief Mark Reshaur told reporters Monday afternoon that power would be restored whenever Manitoba Hydro can replace the damaged wooden poles.

A local cameraman, who had been on scene much of the early morning, said it sounded like a bomb had exploded.

The first team of firefighters arrived on scene at about 12:50 a.m. and started attacking the fire from inside the warehouse. But after battling for about 40 minutes, firefighters were ordered to evacuate the building because temperatures were rising too high.

Lane said crews proceded to attack the fire from the outside, using hand lines and an aerial watertower.

At 2:51 a.m., the south part of the warehouse collapsed, allowing the fire to spread throughout the rest of the building.

Eight homes on Habitat Place, off Jarvis Avenue and across the street from the warehouse, were evacuated. Winnipeg Transit dispatched its Mobile Emergency Response Vehicle to give the evacuees temporary shelter. By around 7:30 a.m., all residents were allowed back in their homes.

WFPS assistant chief Mark Reshaur updated reporters Monday afternoon, saying the building has collapsed in on itself, which is creating a lot of hazards. Reshaur said they need to knock down the exterior walls, dig through the rubble and expose the areas that were still burning.

"This process takes time to do safely," he said. "Complicating it has been the hydro and electrical services to the building."

NICHOLAS FREW / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Firefighters battle the fire Monday morning.</p>

NICHOLAS FREW / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Firefighters battle the fire Monday morning.

Several Manitoba Hydro poles were damaged from the fire and need to be replaced, while a gas line that runs underneath the building needs to be pinched off before the fire can be fully extinguished.

Reshaur said WFPS has turned off the water on Jarvis Avenue to allow the excavation of the gas, and Hydro has already started replacing poles.

Power was cut Monday in nearby lines because the building's collapse was imminent. Reshaur said the power outage will continue until Hydro can reinstall its poles. It is unknown for how long the gas will be cut off.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, and no damage estimate is available. There had been a small fire at the warehouse earlier this year, but the sprinkler system put it out.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Smoke hangs in the air from the warehouse fire on Monday.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Smoke hangs in the air from the warehouse fire on Monday.

A city spokesperson said in an email that 274 Jarvis Ave., which spanned an entire city block, was approved as a medium-hazard (F2) industrial occupancy, and WFPS has no information regarding anyone living in the building at the time of the fire.

Lane said firefighters would likely stick around the site for 48 hours to demolish the building and extinguish any remaining hot spots. Bulldozers arrived early Monday afternoon. Reshaur said crews were expected to work well into the evening to make sure the fire was extinguished. There was no damage estimate available and it could take weeks or more to determine a cause.

In December 2016, a fire in an artists warehouse in Oakland, Calif., known as the Ghost Ship, left 36 people dead — the deadliest fire in that city's history.

On Monday afternoon, a GoFundMe page was created for those who lost their equipment and art in the Jarvis Ave. fire.  

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Firefighters on the scene on Monday.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Firefighters on the scene on Monday.

nicholas.frew@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @n_frew

History

Updated on Monday, July 22, 2019 at 7:06 AM CDT: Adds photo

9:16 AM: Adds photo

10:25 AM: Updates with full writethrough, adds photos

6:14 PM: Writethru

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