Piece of Winnipeg's rock and roll history burns in building fire
Published Sunday, May 10, 2015 4:18PM CST Last Updated Monday, May 11, 2015 3:25PM CST
Thick black smoke from a vacant Bannatyne Avenue apartment building could be seen throughout Winnipeg Sunday afternoon, as part of the city’s music history burned.
According to fire officials, a passing police officer called the fire in shortly after 11:00 a.m. and by the time the first firefighters arrived, the blaze had already spread to every floor in the building.
"They knocked down a lot of the fire but in the process they discovered they had compromised stairs on the upper floors that were burnt out so they weren't able to attack it into the roof where it has progressed to,” said Platoon Chief Frank Leswick.
Unable to fight the flames directly, firefighters used ladder trucks to spray water on the blaze from above.
At times, from the ground the heavy smoke completely obscured the aerial crews from the dozens of curious onlookers gathered to watch the fire consume the building.
"I saw the police officers down there and I knew that something was going on,” said Hanok Afaw as he watched.
Most of the people observing had no idea a piece of Canadian music history was going up in smoke right before their eyes.
"It's kind of an interesting building. It's on the cover of a Guess Who album called So Long, Bannatyne that was released sometime in the early seventies,” said Greg Duncan, who passes the apartment daily on his way to work.
In 1971, The Guess Who was one of the biggest rock bands in the world, regularly playing sold out shows for fans around the globe.
They named the album and title track So Long, Bannatyne because guitarist Kurt Winter had lived in the building and moved out that year.
"It's just something I walked by quite frequently and thought, 'You know I wonder if that building is still there,'” said Duncan. “And so I started looking at the buildings as I was walking and sure enough, that's it."
Nobody currently lives in the building which was being renovated.
Crews continued to battle the stubborn blaze into the evening and were not immediately able to say whether the cause was suspicious.
"Our investigators are on scene to see whether or not, if we knock it down, whether they can get in to try and determine a cause,” said Leswick.
Once investigators do go inside and determine the extent of the damage it will become clear whether this fiery blaze really is so long for part of the city’s rock and roll history.