Thursday, March 17, 2011

Ottawa fire crews monitor hardware store rubble

Ottawa fire crews monitor hardware store rubble

Fire crews monitoring the site of a hardware store fire in Ottawa that left two dozen people homeless say it is once again safe for people to open their windows or go outside.

The city had issued the order Wednesday after toxic smoke began spewing from the blaze, which took most of Wednesday to contain. The order was lifted around midnight, allowing residents to open their windows and use fans or heating systems.

An Ottawa Public Health inspection and air quality tests conducted by the Ottawa Fire Services' HAZMAT team of the surrounding area showed no particles detected.

Toxic smoke from the fire changed colour throughout the day. Brian Goldschmied/CBC

Smoke began billowing out of the Beechwood Avenue Home Hardware in the New Edinburgh neighbourhood just before 10 a.m. ET on Wednesday. More than 130 firefighters were called to battle the blaze throughout the day. Damages have been estimated in the millions of dollars.

At least two dozen people, mostly university students, have been left homeless and 10 adjacent businesses have been lost.

A nearby retirement residence, the New Edinburgh Square, home to 150 people, was evacuated and seniors were taken to a long-term-care facility.
Store was preparing for 3rd anniversary sale

A firefighter told CBC News it's believed the basement of the hardware store contained self-starting charcoal, paint, paint thinner and propane tanks.

Mark Clement, owner of the Home Hardware, had said the store was planning a sale in May to celebrate the store's third anniversary.

He had ordered summer stock including barbecue equipment, charcoal and patio furniture, which were being stored in the basement.

An employee first noticed the fire in the area where he had stacked dozens of bags of the charcoal.

On Thursday morning, the store and its contents were mostly an unrecognizable mass of debris, with the exception of a lone yellow canoe stacked atop a pile of wood and tin.

While the air has been deemed safe, the area still smells of smoke and fire officials have warned that children and people with heart or lung diseases should keep away from the debris.

Beechwood Avenue is still closed to traffic in both directions from Vanier Parkway to Springfield Road.

A pile of debris is all that remains of the Ottawa Home Hardware on Beechwood Avenue after a fire raged through Wednesday. Ashley Burke/CBC