John Ergon Golpe ’22
On Tuesday, September 28, 2021, at 11:20 AM, the WFPS (Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Services) were called to tend to a devastating warehouse fire at 2 Point Douglas. In the following hours, clouds of black smoke billowed out of the area for the entirety of Winnipeg to see. The sheer size of the blaze also activated a second fire alarm at the site, prompting the WFPS to send 100 more firefighters to accommodate them.
As much of a haunting sight the smoke must have been for distant onlookers, the damage the fire had dealt to the warehouse was not as catastrophic as one would assume. According to reports released by city officials later that day, the warehouse was vacant at the time of the fire. However, the Assistant Chief of the WFPS and rescue operations, Jamie Vanderhorst, admitted that he was unable to send fire crews into the wreckage to verify the casualty report. This was due to the structure’s compromised integrity, as the roof had collapsed in on itself. “What the crews encountered was the heavy black smoke and flames from the middle, which caused the roof to collapse,” Vanderhorst said. “At this time, because the roof collapsed, it is hard to get at those hot spots without making that entry.”
To overcome this hurdle, firefighters made attempts to quell the fire from the outside, mostly from above, to reach the blaze in the middle of the warehouse. However, hydro wires became dangerous obstacles for them as they executed the plan. Vanderhorst also shared that during the operation, one of the firefighters was treated and taken to the hospital in stable condition, but no other details were shared regarding their recovery or injuries.
As a precaution, nearby homes were evacuated as firefighters worked and rotated around the clock in the blistering heat of the day’s weather. At one point, a tree line near the scene caught fire, threatening the safety of the nearby residential properties.
Sheldon Blank, the manager of the Gateway Industries warehouse adjacent to the burning building, claimed he saw the fire unfold. He was initially alerted to the situation when a woman smashed a window of the ablaze building screaming for help. “We only saw the fire when we saw the black smoke,” said Blank.
It should be noted that the 17-acre area the warehouse was situated in has had a history of fires. In October 2011, a paper mill in the same area started a blaze that cost 1 million CAD in damages, and in 2014, another, less ferocious, fire struck the same building.
Another report from city officials was released at 5:20 PM stating that on-site firefighters would keep working at the scene for an unspecified period. Vanderhorst later announced that this period of time would be several days.
Photo Credit: Sean Kavanagh/CBC