By: Claire McCormack
Business owners and workers in Winnipeg found themselves watching one of the largest fires ever faced by the city’s emergency services.
Sixty-one firefighters and paramedics were on the scene, a press release from the City of Winnipeg said.
Jacob Hanuschuk told Humber News he was working at a nearby auto service business when the blast happened.
“I heard the explosion and I felt the explosion,” said Hanuschuk. “There was a really big bang and it literally looked like the sky lit on fire.”
Homes and businesses were evacuated by emergency workers.
“The police came and pretty much told us to leave,” Hanuschuk said.
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By Tuesday the fire was out, but Robert Baril said he could see the site from his store.
“There’s police blocking access to the site and there’s several fire engines on the site,” Baril said. He was closing up his shop Monday when the blast happened.
“I left before the big fireball went off,” he said but described the fire as “A lot of really black smoke and flames probably going to 3o or 40 feet in the air.”
Balfour Spence, Chair of the Applied Disaster and Emergency Management program at Brandon University in Manitoba, told Humber News that he watched it unfold on TV.
“First and foremost is the protection of life. I think the emergency response team did a good job in that regard,” said Spence.
“Since there was a lot of uncertainty as to what was the make-up of what was in that warehouse, there was no indication as to whether it was toxic material, what was in there,” he said.
‘Every precaution’ taken
“They took every precaution to ensure that should there be something more than they anticipated it could be dealt with effectively,” Spence said.
Ian Sim, program coordinator for Humber’s Fire Services program agreed with Spence.
“Normally you would take an aggressive stance, but in this case you would probably take a defensive stance because of the risk factor,” said Sim.
A provincial spokesperson told Humber News, “The office of the fire commissioner is investigating the cause but the investigation has just begun and it’s underway.”
City officials said the damage estimated at $15 million dollars. Residents were allowed back in their homes by 12:30 am.