Point Douglas warehouse fire could take days to extinguish, assistant chief says

At least two dozen units from the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service were on the scene early Tuesday afternoon, with firefighters working from all sides of the warehouse, which sits along the Red River near Higgins Avenue.

Witness says they saw smoke, then heard a large boom, followed by plume of flames around 11 a.m.

Multiple units from the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service were on scene near the intersection of Dewdney Avenue and Grace Street. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)

A large warehouse blaze in Point Douglas could keep firefighters busy for days, the assistant chief of rescue operations for the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service says.

"We are looking to be on the scene for a number of days, potentially, with this incident," said Jamie Vanderhorst.

The fire at Gateway Industries Ltd. at 2 Point Douglas Ave. forced police to close Higgins Avenue from Sutherland Avenue to Annabella Street.

"We have one firefighter that has been taken to hospital in stable condition," Vanderhorst said, although he could not provide any details about what happened to the firefighter.

At least two dozen units from the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service were on the scene early Tuesday afternoon. Firefighters received the call around 11:21 a.m.

Nearby homes were evacuated as firefighters battled a large blaze in Point Douglas on Tuesday. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)

The roof of the building collapsed, making it difficult for firefighters to get at hot spots inside, Vanderhorst said. Nearby power lines also made it difficult for crews to get an angle to fight the fire.

Hot weather on Tuesday also complicated the operation, as crews had to rotate frequently to avoid exhaustion. The city says about 100 firefighters were on the scene through the day.

Wind whipped up some of the embers, which ignited on a stationary railcar carrying rail ties nearby, according to the city.

A firefighter douses flames on a train car stopped next to the warehouse fire. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

The blaze was so large, that Darlene Settee could see it from her vantage point on Garbage Hill off Empress Street, about nine kilometres away.

"I said, 'Wow, look at this," she said. "I knew it was a large fire … a large amount of black smoke coming from there, from so far away … I started coughing.

Nearby homes were evacuated while crews fought the fire. At one point a tree line between the warehouse and the homes nearby caught on fire, threatening those properties.

Darlene Settee witnessed the black plume of smoke billow up from the Point Douglas warehouse from atop Garbage Hill, about nine kilometres from the fire. (Submitted by Darlene Settee)

"We got a pretty hard knock on the door. It was one of the police men that knocked on the door, said get your stuff, get out," said Tanya Der.

A witness told CBC News they saw smoke, then heard a large boom, followed by a plume of flames around 11 a.m. Smoke and ash could be seen blowing all over parts of Point Douglas around noon.

Residents who live nearby told CBC News the business inside the warehouse belonged to Gateway Industries, which has seen multiple fires in the past.

CBC News attempted to speak to building owner Sheldon Blank, but he declined to be interviewed.

Vanderhorst said reports from officers at the scene indicated the building was vacant at the time of the fire.

No information about a possible cause for the fire has been released.

Black smoke fills the sky to the northwest of the Manitoba Legislature. (Submitted by Donna L. Brown)

With files from Sean Kavanagh, Cameron MacLean and Bryce Hoye