Fire-gutted building comes down

Louis Power
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

The wreckage from Tuesday night's fire spilled onto Water Street Wednesday morning as the building, still smoldering after firefighters worked on it all night, was torn down.

Dozens of people stood watching from across the road as the downtown heritage building was levelled. The structure was home to Pasta Plus and two people who lived in an upstairs apartment.

The wreckage from Tuesday night's fire spilled onto Water Street Wednesday morning as the building, still smoldering after firefighters worked on it all night, was torn down.

Dozens of people stood watching from across the road as the downtown heritage building was levelled. The structure was home to Pasta Plus and two people who lived in an upstairs apartment.

"It's too dangerous to put our firefighters in there," said Supt. Randy Hammond of the St. John's Regional Fire Department, as firefighters worked from outside the buildings to contain the damage.

Hammond said the fire took place in a section of downtown full of old buildings, which can be challenging for the department.

"When a fire gets going in these parts, it's a job for us to get to it," he said.

The cause of the fire remains unknown, but it is believed to have started in Pasta Plus at about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The surrounding area on Water Street was closed to traffic for the better part of Wednesday as crews cleaned up at the scene, and neighbouring businesses were closed. The blockage in the road, coupled with construction on the harbourfront, brought downtown traffic to a virtual standstill in the afternoon.

John McCarthy, chairman of the Downtown Development Commission and owner of Benjamin's Menswear across the street from the fire scene, said the crew appeared to be making quick progress.

"They are working, I would have to say, very diligently in removing the rubble," he said.

He said his heart goes out to Andrew Corbett, owner of Maverick Sports and Collectibles, located next door to Pasta Plus. This is the second time in five years Corbett's business has been affected by a fire.

"They've been hit by the fire at the sports shop four to five years ago, and now they have to deal with that again," said McCarthy. "There's nothing worse than losing your livelihood to fire."

Pasta Plus re-opened in the building about a month ago following renovations.

Left homeless

The two people left homeless by the fire are now receiving assistance from the Canadian Red Cross.

Clarice LeGrow of the Red Cross said they located a Street Reach vehicle - with the red cross symbol on the side - and asked for help.

"They obviously had no place to go," LeGrow said. "We set them up with some accommodation, some hygiene items ... food vouchers and clothing vouchers."

The Red Cross will help the two for the first 72 hours as they find something more permanent.

"We're here for their immediate needs," LeGrow said.

Up to code

Dave Blackmore of building and property management with the City of St. John's, said occasional inspections are conducted by the city to make sure buildings are up to code - generally when a complaint is made or the building is undergoing renovations.

"When we do get an opportunity in a major renovation we improve the fire stopping," he said.

"We certainly don't go from building to building."

There are varying standards for buildings, depending on factors such as the size of the structure and the nature of the business within. Sprinkler systems, for example, are not mandatory in every building.

"Certainly (it) would be a major plus to the building," he said. "In this particular case, it wouldn't have been required."

He said it has not been confirmed whether the building in question had a system in place.

Blackmore said the downtown area is important to people, and he hopes the buildings will eventually be replaced.

"Certainly nobody wants to see a loss of a building," he said. "One thing, I guess, that this does is provide an opportunity to put a new building with modern standards in place."

Anyone applying to build on the now-empty lot would have to meet the city's heritage regulations, said Blackmore.

"Where the building has been totally destroyed, they can't restore the building exactly like it was," he said, but efforts should be made to use traditional materials and architecture.

No intentions of rebuilding or reopening Pasta Plus elsewhere have been announced.

lpower@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Red Cross, Regional Fire Department, Downtown Development Commission Maverick Sports

Geographic location: Water Street, St. John's

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments