Vacant building in downtown Hamilton 'a total loss' after massive fire, official says

A vacant commercial building in downtown Hamilton is "a total loss" after a massive fire early Saturday, the city's fire chief says.

Fire happened at 206 King St. W., residents nearby were urged to stay inside, keep windows closed

A photo of a fire at a high rise building on Mohawk Rd. E in Hamilton on the morning of Fri Jan. 13.
A massive fire burns a vacant commercial building in Hamilton on Saturday. (Andrew Collins)

A vacant commercial building in downtown Hamilton is "a total loss" after a massive fire early Saturday, the city's fire chief says.

In a statement on Saturday, Hamilton Fire Chief David Cunliffe said the fire at 206 King Street W., near Caroline St. S., has been brought under control. By 4 p.m., crews were focused on putting out hot spots and flare ups, and heavy equipment was being used to take down part of the structure that posed safety concerns, he said.

No one was injured in the blaze that was first reported to the Hamilton Fire Department shortly after 6 a.m. The four-storey building was previously occupied by Hamilton Store Fixtures.

Cunliffe said the fire burned for hours and gutted the building.

"There was significant structural collapse on all four sides of the building," Cunliffe said.

Sections of the building's walls fell onto a building to the east that houses a fast food restaurant, onto vehicles in a parking lot north of the building and onto nearby streets. Debris damaged street lights, traffic lights and a bus shelter, he said.

"The building is a total loss," Cunliffe said. "It is expected that fire crews will still be on the scene for a number of hours and the immediate area around the fire will remain closed until it the collapsed structure can be removed."

When fire crews entered the building early Saturday, they encountered flames, intense heat and heavy smoke. The fire was said to be "well-involved" and crews decided to fight the fire from outside the building.

"As fire and smoke conditions continued to change and worsen the alarm was upgraded, bringing resources from across the City to the scene," Cunliffe said.

Crews used three aerial ladders with "large volume water streams," he added. At its peak, the fire was three-alarm. About 45 firefighters were involved in battling the blaze.

Heavy wood timber inside created what Cunliffe called a "deep-seated" fire. The fire department used a drone in its firefighting efforts, he added.

An investigation into the cause of the fire is continuing and an estimate of total damages has not been provided.

Fire may have sparked balcony blaze

Cunliffe said embers from the fire may have sparked a balcony fire at a nearby condo. He said the suspected secondary fire was quickly contained to the balcony but damage is estimated at $25,000. 

At one point, the fire department urged people living in the immediate area of the main fire to stay inside and keep their windows closed because large plumes of smoke were migrating east and across the mountain.

The fire department has notified the Ontario Fire Marshal's Office about the blaze due to the heavy damage.

Two firefighters stand on the street outside a commercial building fire in Hamilton. (Andrew Collins/CBC)

With files from Jessica Ng