At least 1 person missing after major fire consumes Old Montreal heritage building
More than 100 firefighters were at scene of condo building fire, 9 people in hospital
At least one person is missing after a five-alarm fire raged through a historic building in Old Montreal on Thursday morning.
The fire started around 5:45 a.m. in a building at the intersection of Place d'Youville and Saint-Nicolas Street, right behind the Pointe-à-Callière museum.
More than 100 firefighters deployed to the area, as residents tried desperately to flee the flames. At least one person jumped from a window.
"People broke the [windows ]and were saying 'I want to get out, there's a fire inside, come help me,' and medics were trying," said Guy Allard, a security guard at Pointe-à-Callière museum who arrived for work early Thursday and saw the flames. "It was scary for sure."
Firefighters used ladder trucks to evacuate condominium units on the upper floors and ambulances arrived to treat 12 people for injuries, according to Urgences-santé.
Nine people suffering from burns and smoke inhalation were taken to hospital, Richard Liebmann, the chief of the Montreal fire department, told reporters. Three of them are in serious condition and six have relatively minor injuries, he said.
But investigators are unable to find one person and others could be missing too because some units in the building were used as Airbnb rentals and they don't know how many people were staying there, Liebmann said.
The flames illuminated the neighbourhood and threatened nearby buildings, including the Pointe-à-Callière historic site and museum, which was undamaged but will be closed on Friday.
The heat from the blaze may have sparked the explosion of an air conditioning unit on an adjacent roof, Liebmann said, but firefighters were able to successfully contain the flames and prevent their spread.
Just before 3:30 p.m., the Montreal fire department said the fire was out but that crews were still on the scene.
The building was constructed in 1890 by William Watson Ogilvie, a wealthy businessman, according to the City of Montreal's Old Montreal information website. It was a three-storey building built to house the headquarters of the Ogilvie Milling Company. It featured stone architectural elements including arched windows and had a wood-panelled lobby.
These days, the ground floor is occupied by a firm of architects. The two upper storeys are residential.
It is too early to speculate about the cause of the fire, Liebmann said.
Structural engineers were beginning to examine the building and determine how much of it could be saved.
"We'll do everything we can to save what's left of the building," he said. "We don't want to put anyone's life at risk to save a building but we understand the historical value of the building and its importance."
Hotels near the site of the fire were also evacuated.
Nate Tipple and his partner were visiting Montreal from Oklahoma City. They woke up to the smell of smoke.
"We weren't sure the fire wasn't coming from inside the hotel until we went outside," he said. "I'm just hoping everyone is alright. The scariest part was watching people coming out the windows."
Tipple, who said he was shaken by the events, had to leave his belongings in the hotel.
Fiona Ham, secretary of the Old Montreal Residents' Association (ARVM), said she learned of the fire when her father called her early in the morning.
"It's always sad to see a heritage building damaged," she said. "We thank the firefighters for acting so quickly and in such a great number. We're always open for residents to reach out."
With files from Kwabena Oduro