Site attracting passersby, cruiseship visitors
Firefighters remain on the scene where fire destroyed a building in downtown St. John's Tuesday evening. Photo by Glen Whiffen/The Telegram
A large excavator has been called to the scene of a Water Street building in St. John's destroyed by fire overnight to clean up a pile of charred rubble and the lot.
The fire started around 5:30 p.m. with smoke in the stairwell of Pasta Plus restaurant in the building. In addition to commercial space, the building contained an apartment that was lost leaving two people homeless.
Firefighters were on the scene overnight as they battled what turned out to be a stubborn blaze as fire was found in the walls of the old building, and in voids where various construction and renovations had taken place over the years.
"We're meeting with all kinds of blockades, we're getting really thick, solid walls that we just can't penetrate, our crews have been back here now … working like dogs," said Supt. Randy Hammond. "There are so many hidden spaces in there, and because of the structure, when they were built, it's just heavy planking in a lot of areas."
Those problems were compounded by the fact that the worst of the blaze was at the rear of the building, which was difficult to gain access to due to a 10-foot drop to a tight alleyway off Duckworth Street.
Eventually, a back-hoe was called to the scene and the gutted, burned-out building was torn down in a desperate attempt to stop the blaze.
There was some smoke and water damage to adjoining buildings.
This morning, fire, police and city officials were on the scene surveying the damage, investigating the cause and beginning a cleanup. Firefighters were busy checking the debris for hot spots and packing away hoses and equipment.
Meantime, passersby stopped to observe the scene and to snap photos with their cellphones. Also, many passengers from a visiting cruiseship stopped by the scene to take photos.
Further updates later.