Massive Winnipeg fuel facility fire causes $15 million damage
Published Tuesday, October 2, 2012 7:27AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, October 2, 2012 6:28PM EDT
A massive blaze that caused an estimated $15 million in damage as it sent fireballs and plumes of thick, black smoke into the sky over Winnipeg is now under control, after an overnight battle by firefighters.
The Speedway International fuel facility, located at 40 Nicolas Avenue in St. Boniface, caught fire at approximately 5:30 p.m. local time. It burned for more than seven hours before fire crews, working with the assistance of a police helicopter and using military emergency equipment, managed to knock it down.
The 800-metre evacuation zone imposed around the fire was lifted overnight, after several businesses were forced to close and residents of at least 100 homes had been told to leave.
Keith Norek and his three-year-old son were among the evacuees when explosions began rocking their neighbourhood. Norek told CTV Winnipeg he had time to grab a few essentials before fleeing the scene.
“We got a knock on the door from police saying they were doing an evacuation and everyone should get out,” he said.
“We were about halfway down the block … when one of the explosions went off. We could feel it was a really, really hot fire. It was intense.”
CTV News correspondent Rachel Lagace reported on Tuesday that the fire at the plant, which provides methanol fuel for Indy car and drag racing, was one of the largest in Winnipeg’s history.
"There were tankers full of fuel. There was fuel all over the place, and when it went off it really went off," Lagace told CTV News Channel.
Lagace said military emergency vehicles were deployed to spray fire-retardant foam on the blaze and Winnipeg's police helicopter was used to provide aerial light as fire crews battled the blaze past sundown.
Officials said the fire was so hot at one point that it needed to burn itself and die down naturally before anything could be done.
Fire crews were also forced to stop their efforts at one point, even abandoning a fire truck at the scene, after a tanker truck exploded near the warehouse.
“We did have a tanker explode here earlier that sent flames about half-a-mile in the air,” Winnipeg Fire Chief Reid Douglas told reporters Monday evening. “It was pretty significant, and it caused us to rethink our strategy.”
By late Monday night, the fire had died down enough to allow fire crews to return and douse the blaze.
All employees at Speedway International have been accounted for and there have been no reported injuries.
Fire investigators will now turn their attention to sifting through the ashes for clues of what sparked the blaze.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that CN Rail employees helped firefighters. That was not the case; CN Rail employees were not involved.