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Fire wrecks building in Hamilton's east end

A fire in the east end sent plumes of smoke over Barton Street Saturday afternoon.
Firefighters stood in the rubble of a vacant factory on Merchison Avenue after it collapsed Saturday afternoon. (Adam Carter/CBC)

A fire in Hamilton's east end destroyed part of a factory and forced people from their homes on Saturday afternoon.

Around 2:30 p.m., fire crews were called about a vacant factory that was burning in the area of Merchison Avenue and Harmony Avenue.

"When crews arrived there was a heavy volume of fire," said John Verbeek, assistant chief fire prevention officer.

They tried to get inside to fight the fire, but quickly realized it was unsafe, Verbeek said.

"The roof started sagging and we had to pull crews out," he said. "Then the roof came down and the south wall collapsed into the streets."

Firefighters stood in the rubble fighting hotspots into Saturday evening. They evacuated a number of homes on Merchison and Harmony, and HSR buses were brought in to provide shelter for anyone displaced.

Verbeek said he wasn't yet sure if anyone was inside, as it was too dangerous for crews to enter.

"We have to be careful putting crews inside the building," he said.

Steve Lawry's mother-in-law lives on Harmony Avenue, and he helped her evacuate after the fire broke out.

"There was black and orange smoke everywhere," he said. "You could feel the heat from the house."

"It took them a good half an hour to even get it under control."

Officials have contacted the Ontario Fire Marshal to inspect the site. Verbeek said he didn't yet know how much the damage would cost.