Downtown Montreal roof fire started by cigarette butt, firefighters say
Physical-distancing measures, high winds made fighting fire more challenging
More than 100 Montreal firefighters responded to a four-alarm fire on a rooftop terrasse in downtown Montreal Thursday after somebody tossed a still-smouldering cigarette butt in a trash can.
One man was transported to hospital with minor injuries, and more than 20 people were forced to flee the burning building and the adjacent Hotel St-André, said Sandra Lisi, a section chief with the Montreal fire department. No others were hurt.
The fire was reported at around 2 p.m. on St-André Street, just south of Ste-Catherine Street East, but investigators suspect it started sometime earlier before flames erupted in the trash can.
It then spread to the rooftop terrasse and the adjacent roof, she said.
Dark plumes of smoke, blown by strong wind gusts, could be seen from afar. At one point, flames appeared to engulf the top of the two buildings, but Lisi said firefighters were able to get the fire under control within a couple hours.
Streets in the area were closed for security.
Lisi said the high winds, which knocked trees onto power lines and caused extensive electrical outages throughout southern Quebec, made fighting the fire more challenging, as did complying with physical distancing measures in the midst of a pandemic.
She said firefighters are expected to keep two metres apart, but that's not easy when more than 100 are responding to such an emergency.
The two buildings did suffer water damage, Lisi said, but the fire itself appears to have been contained to the two rooftops.
Lisi said the incident serves as a reminder that it is critical to properly extinguish cigarette butts and not to drop them into trash cans or potted plants. Cigarettes must be fully extinguished and stubbed into ashtrays or buckets of sand, she said.