Homes evacuated, firefighter taken to hospital following Point Douglas warehouse fire
Some Point Douglas area homes have been evacuated as a precaution and one firefighter has been taken to hospital as crews continue to battle a large fire burning in an abandoned warehouse that could take days to extinguish.
Grey, thick smoke could be seen billowing from the area Tuesday afternoon. Pahul Singh had been in the area on his lunch break when he saw the smoke that he said made the sky pitch black.
"There was one fire truck followed by many more, and there was a lot of ambulances and it was just crazy," he said.
The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service was called to the fire around 11:20 a.m., and will likely remain on scene for several days.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Jamie Vanderhorst, assistant chief of WFPS fire and rescue operations, said so far, the reports suggest the building, located at 2 Point Douglas Avenue, was empty and there was no one inside. However, there’s been no way for fire crews to enter the building and verify.
He noted that it is safe to say the building is a total loss, as the roof has caved in, though no damage estimates are available.
“What the crews encountered was the heavy black smoke and flames from the middle, which caused the roof to collapse,” Vanderhorst said.
“At this time, because the roof collapsed, it is hard to get at those hot spots without making that entry.”
He noted since firefighters can’t gain entry to the building, they have to find other ways to extinguish the fire from outside the structure.
Vanderhorst added that since it’s a warm day outside, they’ve been having to rotate crews. The city said about 33 fire and paramedic apparatus have been dispatched, with around 100 WFPS members involved in the fire fight.
“We also are encountering some issues with hydro wires,” he said.
“Even though apparently they are off. It is very hard for our apparatuses to get in there to deploy an aerial to get it from up above.”
The Winnipeg Police Service confirmed to CTV News it is assisting with the fire. Police said eastbound Higgins Avenue is now closed at Annabella Street, with traffic being rerouted north and west. Southbound. Higgins Avenue is closed at Sutherland Avenue, with traffic being rerouted west.
The public is asked to avoid the area and find alternate routes.
“We’re looking at it to be a prolonged event,” Vanderhorst said at a Tuesday afternoon news conference.
Area resident Shaone Ritchie, who lives within blocks of the fire, said the blaze is not surprising.
"It is becoming a common occurrence around here," he said. "It would be nice to see it cleaned up because then we can get this neighbourhood back to the way it was – which is family oriented."
Tuesday night, in a release, the City of Winnipeg said approximately 10 nearby homes were evacuated as a precaution. It said Emergency Social Services was called to help displaced residents find a temporary place to stay. It was unknown Tuesday night when they would be able to return to thier homes.
The smoke from the fire prompted the city to advise people with breathing conditions to stay inside and keep doors and windows closed. The city said Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service had informed Manitoba Conservation and Climate of the fire so it can assess the environmental impact on the site.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.