May 18, 2024

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Fire at building under construction in north-end Halifax quickly extinguished

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Witnesses described hearing a loud blast and seeing large plumes of black smoke on Tuesday morning as a building under construction in Halifax’s north end caught fire.

A statement from Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency said crews were called to the corner of Robie and Almon streets around 8:20 a.m. local time.

When firefighters arrived, they discovered flames and heavy smoke on the 10th floor and roof of a high-rise building that was under construction.

The statement said roofing materials were burning, which created a heavy black smoke plume. Several propane cylinders were also involved in the fire. 

No injuries have been reported and no adjacent buildings were damaged.

Black smoke is seen billowing from a building under construction with a crane next.
Black plumes of smoke could be seen billowing from the building on St Albans Street Tuesday morning. (Daniel Jardine/CBC)

A crane operator was initially reported to have been trapped, but they were able to get out and were safe.

Spokesperson Dave Meldrum said the blaze was brought under control at about 8:45 a.m. and 33 firefighters were involved in the effort.

There was no water in the building, but crews were able to start pumping water onto the fire within 10 minutes using an aerial truck and long hoses, District Chief Pat Kline told CBC News.

He said the aerial equipment is about 30-metres long — roughly seven storeys — so firefighters had to carry their gear up through the building and lower hoses down to it from inside the building. 

“It was a lot of work early to get the water up there. There’s no elevators, they’re walking up 10 flights of stairs,” he said. “The crews did a really good job.”

Large plumes of back smoke billow from an under construction building.
James Shaw lives on McCully Street and heard a blast around 8:20 a.m. local time. He came outside to find a building he lives near was on fire. (Submitted by James Shaw)

Kline said it’s not clear how much damage there was to the building. The cause is under investigation. 

An alert from Halifax Regional Municipality warned people who live on the peninsula to close their windows due to smoke from the fire possibly being toxic. 

“Residents and businesses near the fire should still keep windows closed and air exchangers turned off until air quality conditions improve in the coming hours as a precaution,” the municipality said on X, formerly known as Twitter, mid-morning Tuesday.

Halifax Regional Police also asked people to avoid the area during what is normally a time of heavy morning traffic.

A fire truck is seen driving down a city street, with an under construction building in the background and white plumes of smoke coming from the top.
A number of crews responded to the fire at the under construction building in Halifax’s north end on Tuesday morning. (Daniel Jardine/CBC)

James Shaw lives nearby. He said he heard a blast around 8:20 a.m. local time.

“It shook the whole house,” Shaw said in an interview at the scene. “So I came outside … and saw this incredible building here on fire. Big black smoke. Lots of sparks and stuff going.”

Mike Clark was working on the building adjacent to the one that caught fire. He said he was on the 30th floor when the roof of the other building caught fire and propane tanks blew up.

WATCH | Smoke billowed over north-end Halifax

North-end Halifax fire seen from different angles

Flames and heavy smoke were visible on the roof of a high-rise building under construction.

He said construction crews were then evacuated from the building.

“The elevator was shut down and everyone went down the stairs and out the door,” Clark said. “Everybody on each floor has a horn to check if anybody was left in the building. Sounded the horn and walked down. It was very organized.”

Cory Keeping, who was also working in an adjacent building at the time, said he did feel scared after hearing a bang.

“I didn’t like it,” said Keeping in an interview on the street below the building. “You don’t know what’s going to happen.”

He said the building was safely evacuated and workers were headed back in later Tuesday morning.

A number of city buildings are seen, with an under-construction building in the central background with large plumes of black smoke coming from it.
Large plumes of black smoke as seen from a balcony on Tuesday morning. (Submitted by David Sampson)

The provincial Department of Labour, Skills and Immigration said its safety officers issued a stop-work order on equipment damaged by the fire, including roof anchors and a swing stage. The department is investigating what happened.  

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