Officials assess damage, probe cause of early-morning blaze
Fire on Halifax's Spring Garden Road backs up rush-hour traffic
By KELLY SHIERS Staff Reporter
Wed. Apr 23 - 3:30 PM
Fire destroyed two businesses on Spring Garden Road early Wednesday morning and threatened a third. (DARREN PITTMAN/ Staff)
Firefighters battle a blaze early Wednesday morning that engulfed a building on Spring Garden Road. A pizza shop and hair salon inside the structure suffered major fire and water damage. (ERIC WYNNE/ Staff)
Investigators are trying to determine the cause of an early morning fire that left a building that housed two shops in ruins.
“It’s a very serious fire. There is extreme loss to the building, probably hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage – that’s just a rough estimate,” said Halifax Fire Platoon Chief Bryson Wilson.
Shattered glass and bits of charred timber littered the Spring Garden Road sidewalk in front of City Pizza, as the top floor still smouldered more than five hours after firefighters first rushed to the scene. The brightly coloured yellow and red façade was blackened, windows were broken and patio tables and chairs on a second-floor deck were strewn about. Ladders still leaned against the building, while the Halifax street, cordoned off for several hours, was flooded with water.
By mid-afternoon, the acrid smell of smoke still lingered in the air as passersby on the crowded pedestrian thoroughfare stopped to stare. A fire investigations truck was on the scene and police still blocked entrance to the sidewalk in front of the building, although the street was open to traffic.
The building, on one of the busiest commercial streets in the region, is owned by Gremar Investments Limited. Gregory Arab of Bedford, who is listed in provincial records as the company director, could not be reached for comment. The owner of the pizza shop could also not be reached.
A man who identified himself as a regional manager for Topcuts, the hair salon in the building’s basement, was on site early Wednesday morning, but didn’t want to comment.
Platoon Chief Wilson said there was heavy fire and structural damage to the building’s second floor and loft area and major smoke and water damage to the hair salon.
He said firefighters arrived just after 2:15 a.m. and found smoke coming from its roof and too much fire to battle inside the wooden structure.
The firefighters, some 26 in all, quickly turned their attention to keeping the fire from spreading to businesses that were as close as three metres away. Only after they were satisfied that those buildings were safe, did they attack the inside flames, he said. The fire was under control by about 4 a.m.
He said officials didn’t believe anyone was inside the burning building when they arrived and police had already evacuated people living in the adjacent Dairy Queen building. Brent Jewers said he woke up Wednesday morning to police pounding on his second-floor apartment door.
The sales manager for City Mazda said he quickly put on comfortable clothes and headed outside.
He ended up paying for a hotel room at the nearby Lord Nelson while the fire was extinguished.
Mr. Jewers said he was the lone occupant in the Dairy Queen building at the time.
Despite the ordeal, Mr. Jewers was in good humour Wednesday, as he learned that he would be able to return to his apartment.
“I’m late for work,” he said. “Do you want to buy a car?”
Coralie Ayer woke up to the sounds of sirens and looked outside her eighth-floor apartment window to see the commotion on Spring Garden and South Park streets. She said fire trucks, police vehicles and ambulances were outside her Martello Street apartment building.
“I was ... in bed and turned over and looked out my window ... and watched the top of the building go from smoking to huge flames very quickly,” she said in an e-mail.
She said the fire seemed to be out of control “for quite a while and it was a while before the firemen were able to get it to the point that (there were) no longer huge flames shooting out of the back.”
She said she saw firemen keeping watch as they stood on the roof of a nearby building.
Platoon Chief Wilson said the blaze never reached other buildings, but some were damaged by smoke. As well, firefighters trying to gain access to some of them had to break windows or doors.
Glass lay in piles in front of Your Father’s Moustache pub where firefighters forced their way inside in order to get a better view of the roof fire.
Power had been cut to the area for “a short period,” but was turned back on after the flames were under control. He said he believed businesses in the area, for the most part, would be able to open as usual.
In fact, as firefighters continued to watch for hotspots, employees at a coffee shop just a few doors down were busy preparing for the morning rush.