'Nobody seems to do anything about it': Fire crews fight West End house fire

Winnipeg fire crews responded to a fire at a vacant two-and-a-half-storey home on Maryland Street on Sunday afternoon under the scorching sun.

Neighbours report Maryland Street home has been vacant for years and suspicious activity persists

Fires crews try to stay hydrated under the sun as a firefighter atop a ladder sprays down flames bursting through the peak of the roof of a vacant home in the West End on Sunday. (Dana Hatherly/CBC)

Flames and heavy smoke burst through the roof at a vacant house in Winnipeg's West End where fire crews battled a top-floor fire on a blazing hot Sunday afternoon.

The top floor blaze inside the two-and-a-half-storey house at 444 Maryland St. burned through the wood-framed ceiling, lighting up the peak of the roof and spreading to the roof of the back porch.

"The fire was showing on the third floor... we had to open up the roof," Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service Platoon Chief Brian Marchak said in an interview outside the home, as crews worked to squash the spread of the fire. 

The top floor fire scorched its way through the peak of the rooftop of the vacant home on Maryland Street. (Dana Hatherly/CBC)

In addition to the six trucks that responded to the emergency shortly after 1 p.m., more crews were called in so that firefighters could rotate and take breaks to cool down.

One firefighter was assessed and treated by paramedics on scene for heat exhaustion. No other injuries were reported.

Crew members used cooling chairs to moderate body temperature and passed out water bottles to prevent dehydration as the temperature surpassed the 30 C mark. (Dana Hatherly/CBC)

No one was inside the house at the time of the fire.

The fire platoon chief said the building appears to be vacant, however multiple neighbours reported regularly seeing suspicious activity, including people breaking into the boarded-up building and wandering in and out at all hours.

Marchak said upon initial inspection there were no signs that the home was occupied or being used prior to the fire.

"None that I know of right now," he said, adding those types of reports should be called in to police.

Vacant house 'a danger,' says neighbour 

For about 13 years, Henry Santos has lived across the street from the house that caught fire.

Santos said the smell of smoke prompted him to look out a window. That's when he saw the flames and called 911.

"I just knew it was going to happen sooner or later because that house has been boarded up for years," Santos said. "Nobody seems to do anything about it."

"Nobody cares. They leave it there, and then it's a danger to the houses next door and to us."

Fire chief Brian Marchak estimated crews would be on scene for about three hours dousing out flames at the vacant home. (Dana Hatherly/CBC)

"Why not knock it down rather than just board it up? A boarded-up house like that, that's just looking for more trouble," Santos said.

Multiple witnesses who live in the area agreed. They mentioned another vacant building on the street has caught fire numerous times.

When asked what should happen with empty structures in the city, Marchak referred to city bylaws that regulate them.

He said they would be contacting the homeowner to find out if the home is insured.

Neighbouring residences were not damaged by the fire but did receive water damage due to runoff from fire hoses, Marchak said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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