Abandoned apartment on Maryland to be demolished following third fire in a year
WINNIPEG -- An abandoned apartment building on Maryland Street will be demolished following its third fire in the span of the year.
According to the City of Winnipeg, crews were called to the vacant building in the 400 block of Maryland Street on Wednesday evening around 8 p.m. Upon arrival they found flames and thick black smoke.
"It had my wife panicking, my kids that were awake panicking, so it's a little scary that this is happening," Ryan Datul, who lives nearby the burned-out apartment told CTV News.
Six people and a dog had to leave two nearby homes because of the fire, and were given temporary shelter in Winnipeg Transit busses.
After nearly six hours, crews finally declared the fire under control at 1:25 a.m. Thursday.
"Fatigue is a big issue for our crews,” said Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service Chief Mark Reshaur. “You're wearing more clothing. You're going from extremes, you're going from -20C to very high temperatures inside the building."
In a tweet on Wednesday night, the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg said crews faced dangerous conditions while battling the blaze.
"Cold conditions can pose a health hazard for crews, cause hose line freezing as well as a treacherous work area due to ice build-up," the union tweeted. "Windy conditions can cause additional fire spread making it difficult to extinguish."
But, while a fire of this scale is taxing on crews, Tom Bilous from the union said it doesn't just affect the stations in the area.
"The closest fire hall to Waverley West ended up getting relocated, so it does have a domino effect," Bilous said. "It jeopardizes response times, so we're very concerned about that."
This isn't the first times crews have been called to the Maryland apartment. Almost one year ago, dozens of people were forced from their homes after a fire was started in the building. Exactly one week later, another fire broke out there.
The WFPS said the building wasn't demolished after last year's fire because the damage didn't pose a safety risk.
Since then, the building has sat boarded up and vacant - for the most part.
"I think that what's happening as the weather gets colder, people are breaking in. Squatters are breaking into vacant buildings seeking shelter," Reshaur said.
The chief said the investigation into the fire is ongoing, but it was likely human-caused.
In the fallout from the previous fires last year, the Spence Neighbourhood Association helped many of the people who lost their homes in the blaze.
Benjamin Simcoe, a housing coordinator for the association, said the latest fire speaks to a larger issue.
"If these buildings do get replaced one day, I'm not optimistic they're going to be replaced with something that's going to have affordable or low income units,” he said. “They're going to be largely unaffordable."
The city said it's working to crack down on vacant buildings, including approving a new deterrent which came into effect on Jan. 1, 2020: an empty building fee for long term vacant buildings of one per cent of the most recent assessed value.
According to the city, the building on Maryland is set to be demolished Thursday to prevent any further hazards.
As for Datul, the building's demolition can't come soon enough.
"It's about time they're finally tearing it down," he said.
The city said Maryland Street from Ellice to St. Matthews Avenues will remain closed through evening rush hour.
-with files from CTV’s Kayla Rosen and Danton Unger