The Bissell Centre thrift shop, a place that serves thousands of needy people every month, has been ravaged by a fire for the second time in less than a year.
The fire began around 7 p.m. Saturday at the Bissell Centre’s temporary location at 11817 80 Street. Three employees were working in the building at the time, but managed to exit the building safely.
The building was engulfed in flames which turned into thick billowing smoke. Deputy fire Chief Barry Lamb said crews had to be pulled out of the building at one point, because of fears the roof was going to collapse.
The blaze was eventually declared under control at 11:05 p.m. Saturday. Fire fighters were on scene putting out hot spots until about 5:30 a.m. Sunday.
Edmonton Fire spokesperson Karen Burgess the blaze caused about $950,000 in damage. Fire investigators are still investigating the cause of the blaze.
Bissell Centre CEO Mark Holmgren called the fire “heartbreaking.”
“We are devastated to experience such a disaster after our permanent store location experienced a terrible fire in 2013,” he wrote in a statement.
“Not only does the fire impact those who shop there for low cost clothing and household items, it impacts the 13 staff who depend on the store for their livelihood.”
Mike Dalpe worked across the street from the Bissell Centre and says the fire will impact the community.
"I see a lot of people on the street pushing shopping carts full of belongings," said Dalpe. "That's their life. When they did get a little bit of money... they could buy [things] here for next to nothing."
The Bissell Centre’s original location at 118th Avenue and 88th Street was destroyed in a fire in September 2013. The fire caused $650,000 in damages and forced the store to lay off several staff members.
The temporary location was being rented out to the Bissell Centre by the Native Friendship Centre.
Magaret Mooney used to work at the previous Bissell Centre location until it burned down. She couldn't believe when she heard the temporary shop was also ravaged by fire.
"It makes it more real," she said standing in front of the rubble. "I honestly thought it must be a mistake."
“I would be dishonest if I didn’t say this is heartbreaking,” wrote Holmgren. “However, I have no doubt about the resiliency of my staff and the caring support of the Edmonton community.”
The Bissel Centre is asking people to hold onto donations until they find a new drop-off location. Staff will be meeting on Monday to determine what to do next.
The Bissell Centre serves about five thousand people each month, providing a place to buy affordable clothing, household items and children's toys.