A burning warehouse on Point Douglas Avenue sent plumes of grey smoke into the air and shut down roadways Tuesday afternoon, echoing a massive blaze at the site a decade ago.
Sheldon Blank, manager of soap manufacturer Gateway Industries, said he was in an adjacent building when the 25,000-square-foot storage segment of the property caught fire.
Blank said he was first alerted to the situation when a woman smashed a window of the office building. He suspected the fire was started by that same person or a larger group; officials on site had no such confirmation.
"We only saw the fire when we saw the black smoke," said Blank, who purchased the building in 1984.
"That section of the building will be a total loss. Everything has come to a stop. We can’t do anything. There’s nothing here to salvage."
Fire crews were called to the warehouse at 11:21 a.m.
First responders faced heavy black smoke on scene, which could be seen from a distance.
The structure's roof had collapsed, hindering firefighter efforts.
"It's hard to get at those hot spots without making that entry," Jamie Vanderhorst, Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service assistant chief, said Tuesday afternoon.
It was believed the warehouse was vacant at the time of the fire; however, firefighters hadn't entered as of 2 p.m. — it was too dangerous. Instead, crews worked from the outside.
One firefighter was taken to hospital in stable condition after being treated by on-scene paramedics on Tuesday afternoon. Another was injured at the scene overnight but was not taken to hospital. That firefighter remained off-duty as of Wednesday morning.
About 10 nearby homes were temporarily evacuated because of smoke. It is not known when residents will be able to return to their homes, the City of Winnipeg said in a news release late Tuesday night.
One ember ignited on a stationary railcar carrying rail ties near the scene.
Thirty-three emergency vehicles and around 100 crews members had attended the scene. There were seven fire trucks on site Tuesday afternoon.
Crews were drawn from across the city to handle the blaze, rotating work due to the heat, which topped out at 29 C in Winnipeg.
Parts of Higgins Avenue that were closed because of the fire reopened to traffic in both directions Wednesday morning.
No damage estimate is available, but the building is a total loss, the city said. The cause of the blaze is under investigation.
The City of Winnipeg said Wednesday morning that firefighters are expected to remain at the scene extinguishing hot spots for most of the day.
A massive blaze in October 2011, at the same location (2 Point Douglas Ave.), caused more than $1 million in damages. The 17-acre site's paper mill was destroyed. Fifteen nearby homes were evacuated, and traffic was rerouted.
In 2014, another smaller fire struck the building.
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