Tue, May 12, 2009
Firefighters are battling a blaze at London’s storied Embassy Hotel, two months after the legendary water hole closed for good to make way for a 150-unit condo project.
Half a dozen fire trucks were gathered near the Dundas Street landmark tonight, the crowd kept back. Flames shot from the roof at the back of the building shortly after 8:30 p.m.
Heavy smoke billowed through the neighbourhoods north of Dundas Street, reducing visibility to zero in some areas and choking residents.
Firefighters battled the blaze with two aerial trucks, one in the rear and another out front as flames curled skyward from the building’s centre area.
Police moved hundreds of onlookers away after firefighters raised fear of an explosion.
Sirens could be heard off and on as new crews arrived to help.
In the crowd was 42-year-old Pat, who didn’t want to give her last name as she recalled sitting in the Embassy, drinking with friends as an underage teenager.
“I’ve drank there, my kids did – we’re talking two, three generations,” she said. “This is too bad because it was definitely a landmark. Lots of kids got in trouble in there. I know. I was one of them going in under age.”
Rob Bazinet, 32, who worked at the Embassy for 10 years until it closed and leaving as its last general manager, said it was a “sad” ending for the building.
“It’s sad it ended this way,” said Bazinet, adding old wooden furniture stored in some of the rooms could be fueling the fire.
“It was a community music spot for 50 years. Then you get out-of-town owners who come in and don’t fix anything and let it run down.”
Sarah Merritt, manager of the Old East Village Business Improvement Area, was also saddened, but confident the planned re-development will still go ahead and hopeful the property will be cleaned up after the fire.
“I don’t know what to say,” said Merritt. “They were planning to demolish the first two buildings this summer. “I’m sure the developer and the city will work something out. But it was a real landmark. There’s a lot of history in there.”
Built in the early 1900s, the hotel was to be demolished and a 150-unit condominium project built in its place.
It wasn’t immediately clear how tonight’s fire began.