Winnipeg fuel plant concerns remain, 1 year after fire
Blaze at Speedway International plant evacuated St. Boniface homes
One year after a massive fire ripped through a racing fuel plant in Winnipeg, some people who live in the area say they're concerned the facility is being rebuilt.
The blaze ignited late in the afternoon on Oct. 1, 2012, at Speedway International Inc.'s racing methanol manufacturing plant, burning throughout the night and sending fireballs into the sky.
It also forced the evacuations of about 100 nearby homes west of the plant, located in an industrial area in the city's St. Boniface neighbourhood. Displaced residents could not return to their homes until the following day.
- Oct. 1, 2012: Massive fuel plant fire in Winnipeg under control
- Oct. 2, 2012: Winnipeg fuel plant fire causes $15M damage
- Timeline: St. Boniface fuel plant fire
No one was injured, but the fire caused $15 million in damages and presented a frightening scene to many Winnipeggers with its roaring flames, sooty black smoke and loud blasts.
"It was really scary," recalled Mari Darcel, who lives in St. Boniface.
"They were saying that things were exploding and things were flying all over the place and, like, I didn't know — is my house going to get hit?"
Acting fire Chief Bill Clark says while the fuel plant blaze was handled appropriately by firefighters, it was a unique situation.
"In this particular case, the fire was so extremely involved … when the very first crews arrived, I mean, it really was a defensive operation form the beginning," he said Monday.
Fire officials later determined that the blaze was an accident caused by the spontaneous combustion of an oily substance.
Plant is being rebuilt
These days, Speedway International is in the process of rebuilding its facility, which was destroyed in the fire.
The area where the plant is located is zoned as an industrial area, but neighbourhood residents like Cheri Robin say they're still not happy to hear the company is rebuilding.
"Race car fuel, right? I don't think that should be inside city limits. It should be outside the Perimeter," Robin said.
In the past year, concerns were raised about the Speedway International plant and whether it is appropriate to put heavy industrial areas near residential streets.
At the time of the blaze, firefighters said they found rail cars full of fuel that could have exploded.
"What happened a year ago was unacceptable," said Dan Vandal, the city councillor for St. Boniface.
Since the fire, Vandal has been calling for heavy industrial facilities to be built farther away from residential neighbourhoods.
City officials are waiting for a report that could clarify what responsibility the provincial government may have in the matter, he said.
"You can't tell me that they have no responsibility, either," Vandal said.
"Their role is not just to give money and an environmental licence and then just go away. They have the expertise and the staff, so there has to be a role for them."
Owner has never spoken publicly about fire
Speedway International's director, Royce Rostecki, has never spoken publicly about the fire.
Instead, he issued a statement through a public relations company days after the blaze that stated, "Speedway International went through all the permitting processes that it understood were required."
This past spring, Rostecki and the company were charged with 16 offences under City of Winnipeg building and fire prevention bylaws.
The charges were related to the storage of flammable liquids and building occupancy infractions.
Calls from CBC News to Rostecki on Monday were not returned.