Manitoba

Fire destroys residence building at Manitoba college

A Manitoba college residence went up in flames on Thursday in a fire that destroyed most of the building, which was in the midst of renovations.

Still unclear what started fire that broke out around 5 p.m.

The fire departments of Niverville, St. Malo and St-Pierre-Jolys, supported by the RCMP, were dispatched to a fire at a Providence College residence building on Thursday. (Submitted by Providence University College)

A Manitoba college residence went up in flames on Thursday in a fire that destroyed most of the building, which was in the midst of renovations.

Around 5 p.m. Thursday, an employee of Providence University College in Otterburne noticed smoke coming from Bergen Hall, a men's residence on campus.

RCMP and fire departments from Niverville, St. Malo and St-Pierre-Jolys tackled the blaze but not much was left when the fire was contained later in the evening.

A neighbour provided additional water during the fight, said Providence spokesperson Cherry Wiebe.

The school doesn't know the full extent of the damage yet, but isn't expecting to salvage much, she said.

"By the looks of it, it will most likely have to be torn down and then we'll start from scratch," she said.

It's still unclear how the fire started.

The building was constructed in the 1980s and was undergoing exterior renovations at the time of the fire, Wiebe said. The 60-room dorm slept 120 people at maximum capacity, but was empty when the fire broke out.

It was a "quick burn" that appears to have started in the back of the building, Wiebe said.

She said the news shocked many in the school's community.

"Obviously it's really, really new still," she said. "I think there is definitely a lot of shock, and as the word kind of gets out there's a lot of nostalgia and memory behind the use of the building."

"A lot of our students and alumni have commented and are … for the most part, just shocked."

Wiebe said the school has already received a handful of offers to help deal with the aftermath of the fire.

"We have a really supportive team and community at Providence," she said.

What remains of Bergen Hall will likely have to be torn down, said Providence spokesperson Cherry Wiebe. (Submitted by Providence University College)

"I think we're really blessed in that way, that we've been able to have such a large community that supports Providence."

Students won't need access to dorms until September but the school hosts high school students for camps during the summer who will need somewhere to sleep, Wiebe said.

The college will meet Friday to put together a plan for how to rebuild and where people will sleep in the meantime.

Otterburne is about 45 kilometres south of Winnipeg.

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