Major fires destroy multiple Brandon buildings
Published Saturday, May 19, 2018 2:03PM CST Last Updated Sunday, May 20, 2018 3:06PM CST
Firefighters try to put out a blaze at Christie's Office Plus. (Source: Kaileea Marie Graham)
Destructive fires laid waste to a historic block of Brandon based businesses near 7th and Pacific Avenue Saturday afternoon.
Flames could be seen bursting through the buildings as clouds of smoke covered the sky over Brandon.
The owner of Brandon’s Boxing Club said his club is unsalvageable.
“The building burned all night,” Noel Harding said via Facetime from Mexico.
The Boxing Club is part of a multi-unit building that also includes Collyer’s Sales and Service and Kazic Kontracting Building. The building is one of four that caught fire in Brandon on Saturday.
Harding said his space was uninsured because there was a “one in a billion chance” a fire could happen and Harding, who has been running the club for 17 years, already struggled to pay his rent and couldn’t afford to pay insurance.
The boxer found out about the massive fire before going out into the ring for a fight in Mexico Saturday.
“I went out and I still got a knockout”, he said, who added his thoughts are back in Brandon.
Around the noon-hour Saturday, Brandon firefighters scrambled to contain a massive fire at Christie’s Office Plus, a historic building in downtown Brandon that sits next door to the boxing club. Giant flames were shooting from the building and embers and ash were drifting blocks away. Reinforcements were called in to help fight the fire, including crews from CFB Shilo, Wawanesa and Souris.
“Our first responders have done a fantastic job, I can’t say enough about the Mutual Aid and the cooperation and assistance from the fire agencies in true Manitoba-style,” said Brandon Mayor Rick Chrest. “Everybody gangs up together and helps their neighbour.”
There were fears drifting embers could spark more fires, and they did.
Firefighters were soon battling four blazes, including one across the street from Christies, at Massey Manor—a five story affordable housing complex. As of Sunday, nearly 200 people were homeless and staying in hotels with the support of the Red Cross.
“It’s early times, they’ve spent one night in a hotel, but the larger challenge will be for the agencies are to find them proper homes,” said Chrest.
Debbie Huntinghawk, president of the Brandon Friendship Centre, which managed the third floor of Massey Manor, said 11 of its families are displaced. Huntinghawk said the Brandon Friendship Centre has other units in Brandon that can house its displaced clients, but those units need to be repaired.
"It's devastating. We just think about the kids that have no home. And where do we go from here with our families? We might have a few empty units to move families into but all of our buildings are in badly need of repairs," Huntinghawk said.
Harding hoped his building would be okay, because as of Saturday evening it was still standing while crews worked to extinguish hot spots.
“My mom went down there this morning and there’s nothing left,” Harding said.
Despite the challenge ahead, Harding is staying positive.
“It’s a temporary speed bump. I’m going to continue to follow my dreams,” Harding said.