Massive overnight fire destroys historic Edmonton building

A massive overnight fire has destroyed one of the oldest buildings in the Oliver area downtown.
Firefighters battled a massive overnight blaze that destroyed the Leamington Mansions on Jasper Avenue. (David Cambon)

Fire investigators are now combing through the rubble after a massive overnight fire destroyed one of the oldest buildings in the Oliver area downtown.

District fire chief Greg Winter said the call came in at 4:05 a.m. Saturday, when someone spotted flames coming out of the Leamington Mansions at Jasper Avenue and 114th Street.
Flames from a huge fire at the Leamington Mansions on Jasper Avenue lit up the night in the Oliver area overnight. (David Cambon)

"The fire was blowing out of the back side of the apartment, towards the building that was occupied immediately north, and was threatening that building," Winter said. "Our crews had to force entry into that building in order to evacuate some of the residents that were in their suites."

The flames lit up the night sky and cast an eerie glow over surrounding streets.

Christopher Dutchak lives on the 14th-storey of a building about a block away.

"My girlfriend woke me up, and all we could see just a giant orange glow over the entire downtown," he said. "It was almost as if there was a light-show going on."

The two-alarm fire gutted the 101-year-old building, which was empty and had been undergoing renovations at the time.

Epcor shut down power in the area while fire crews battled the blaze. Power has since been restored to most nearby buildings.

Hours after the flames were extinguished, a backhoe was working at the site to clear debris and fire crews were still spraying water on hot spot, Winter said.
This photograph snapped Saturday morning shows the aftermath of the fire that gutted the Leamington Mansions near Jasper Avenue and 114th Street. (CBC)

"We're making an assessment on the structure in consultation with the property owners and their insurers in order to determine what is going to happen next," Winter said.

The Leamington was built in 1914, one of the original luxury-style apartment houses in the city's downtown, said Dan Rose, a member of the City of Edmonton Historical Board.

 "It was a great building. It's incredibly disappointing to see it now."

The building sat vacant for many years. The owners were in the process of preserving and restoring it to its former glory, Rose said.

There were no reports of injuries and no information is available yet on what may have caused the fire.

Long-time Edmonton resident Rick Nelson heard the news of the fire on the radio and was among the many people who stopped by to have survey the damage.

"Edmonton is losing all its heritage buildings," he said. "And in my mind, when they're all gone, Edmonton is just another city full of glass and concrete."


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