Water Street buildings burn, have to be demolished

Everton McLean
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Shortly after arriving at a fire in downtown St. John's, firefighters thought they had the situation under control.

Seven hours later, the gutted, burned-out buildings had to be torn down with an excavator in a desperate attempt to stop the blaze.

The two storefronts that house the Pasta Plus restaurant on the north side of Water Street were completely demolished, as a crowd of more than 100 watched.

Shortly after arriving at a fire in downtown St. John's, firefighters thought they had the situation under control.

Seven hours later, the gutted, burned-out buildings had to be torn down with an excavator in a desperate attempt to stop the blaze.

The two storefronts that house the Pasta Plus restaurant on the north side of Water Street were completely demolished, as a crowd of more than 100 watched.

The fire started around 5:30 p.m. with smoke in the stairwell of Pasta Plus. Emergency crews realized they were in trouble when they discovered the fire was in the walls of the old building.

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.

"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."

For hours, about 10 different hoses were all trained on the building, with the fire department's aerial unit extended from Water Street completely over the building to shower water on the rear.

Pieces of charred ceiling tile floated down a small stream that formed on Water Street.

By 10 p.m., the fire had taken hold of the thick tar roof of the building, and emergency crews turned their focus to saving the Credit Union building to the east, and the Maverick Sports and Collectibles building to the west.

Second fire

Maverick owner Andrew Corbett looked on among the crowd in the Scotia Bank plaza; five years earlier, his store burned down in another fire.

"It doesn't feel too good. You would think once in a lifetime is the most you're going to get, but twice in five years is a bit much," Corbett said, adding that he expects heavy smoke and water damage, despite the firefighters' best efforts to salvage the building.

For more than seven hours, police blocked off Water Street between Adelaide Street and the Supreme Court building, and Duckworth Street between New Gower Street and Church Hill.

Structures demolished

Past midnight, an excavator was brought in, and within about 20 minutes, the fire was effectively under control.

On the top two storeys, the front was completely taken off the building, as well as part of the ground floor. A large chunk was taken from the wall of the Credit Union building as well.

It was unclear what started the fire, but Scott Fiander, a cook at Pasta Plus, said that something that smelled like paint thinner had been seeping from the ceiling.

"At first, we heard what we thought was water, in the ceiling," he said. "And then we noticed green liquid was coming from the ceiling."

It was unclear how it happened, Fiander said, but the liquid caught fire.

jmcleod@thetelegram.com amorrissey@thetelegram.com emclean@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Pasta Plus, Credit Union, Maverick Sports Scotia Bank Supreme Court Church Hill

Geographic location: Water Street, Duckworth Street, St. John's Adelaide Street New Gower Street

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Recent comments

  • Jimmy
    July 02, 2010 - 13:35

    These buildings should be sprinklered to stop or slow down the spread of fire until firefighters get there. As nice as they are, these old breathable buildings are so dry it wouldn't take much for fire to destroy it. Do we have to wait until lives are lost before something is done?

  • Bones II
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    I wonder what the green liquid was and if it is present in any other building around the area?

  • C
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    Perhaps we shouldn't allowed certain types of activities to take place in these heritage buildings, or to supervise these activities with a bit more scrutiny given the nature of these being historic buildings.

  • tom
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    I think the time has come to reexamine all this zealous heritage construction stuff before people are killed. after the old fire buildings were just slapped up and are nothing but death traps lucky this fire didnt start at 2:00am.this city is going backwards and time to move forward in design of new buildings.

  • GNL
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    It's good to know that no one was hurt. I feel sorry for Andrew though. To go through the fire in 2005 and now this one, it's pretty terrible. I hope he can get back on his feet quickly. Maybe it's time to move to a different location.

  • Diana Leadbeater
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    This was so sad to watch. I watched it from the very start via the Nubody's gym window and then well into the night on the ground. Got lots of photos and video. Such a shame since he had just renovated.

  • well
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    its good to know no one was hurt , but look at the good side when it comes to Water st we got another parking lot.
    Funny it seems every thing that goes wrong down there turns into a parking lot, and i will add not free parking either.

  • shack23
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    Andrew, I was at supper last night a couple of blocks away , and couldn't help feel for you. when I heard of the location of the fire. You are an entrepreneur and will rise again from the ashes . All the best and hopefully damage is not too severe.

  • Bonnie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    I've been a semi regular customer of Andrew's for more more than a year and I was sitting on the edge of my seat last night trying to find out what was going on. I hope that he can rebuild his business and that the damage isn't too bad.

  • Jimmy
    July 01, 2010 - 20:25

    These buildings should be sprinklered to stop or slow down the spread of fire until firefighters get there. As nice as they are, these old breathable buildings are so dry it wouldn't take much for fire to destroy it. Do we have to wait until lives are lost before something is done?

  • Bones II
    July 01, 2010 - 20:24

    I wonder what the green liquid was and if it is present in any other building around the area?

  • C
    July 01, 2010 - 20:10

    Perhaps we shouldn't allowed certain types of activities to take place in these heritage buildings, or to supervise these activities with a bit more scrutiny given the nature of these being historic buildings.

  • tom
    July 01, 2010 - 20:04

    I think the time has come to reexamine all this zealous heritage construction stuff before people are killed. after the old fire buildings were just slapped up and are nothing but death traps lucky this fire didnt start at 2:00am.this city is going backwards and time to move forward in design of new buildings.

  • GNL
    July 01, 2010 - 20:00

    It's good to know that no one was hurt. I feel sorry for Andrew though. To go through the fire in 2005 and now this one, it's pretty terrible. I hope he can get back on his feet quickly. Maybe it's time to move to a different location.

  • Diana Leadbeater
    July 01, 2010 - 19:59

    This was so sad to watch. I watched it from the very start via the Nubody's gym window and then well into the night on the ground. Got lots of photos and video. Such a shame since he had just renovated.

  • well
    July 01, 2010 - 19:58

    its good to know no one was hurt , but look at the good side when it comes to Water st we got another parking lot.
    Funny it seems every thing that goes wrong down there turns into a parking lot, and i will add not free parking either.

  • shack23
    July 01, 2010 - 19:58

    Andrew, I was at supper last night a couple of blocks away , and couldn't help feel for you. when I heard of the location of the fire. You are an entrepreneur and will rise again from the ashes . All the best and hopefully damage is not too severe.

  • Bonnie
    July 01, 2010 - 19:47

    I've been a semi regular customer of Andrew's for more more than a year and I was sitting on the edge of my seat last night trying to find out what was going on. I hope that he can rebuild his business and that the damage isn't too bad.