WINNIPEG – Firefighters were forced to remain outside a blaze at a historic Winnipeg highrise on Sunday due to renovations that have been underway to turn the building into a Hyatt Place hotel.
The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service responded to the Keewayden Building, also known as the Crowley Building, at 2:35 a.m. and encountered heavy flames that engulfed the roof of the seven-storey structure.
Assistant chief Jay Shaw told reporters at the scene that burning roofing material fell down the elevator shaft, spreading the flames into the basement.
Initially, Shaw says some firefighters went into the building, but a news release from the city says they were forced to retreat because the building’s water suppression systems weren’t working.
Shaw says crews launched an attack on the flames from the outside and were assisted by some of the scaffolding on the exterior of the building.
According to the city’s list of historic resources, the Keewayden Building near the corner of Portage and Main was completed in 1909 and originally housed offices and later became a clothing factory.
“On first arrival, crews did make entry to try and see what they could do. The stairwells were full of smoke and heat. And with the heavy load of fire on the roof they retreated out and started to set up a defensive attack with aerial apparatus,” Shaw said on Sunday morning.
Shaw said there were no reports of injuries and no reports of anyone having been inside.
At the time he spoke with reporters, Shaw said the flames appeared to be contained to the sixth and seventh floors. He said he hoped they would be out within several hours, and anticipated crews would remain at the scene until the evening.
The cause is under investigation.
“I can tell you that buildings are most at risk at birth, at death, and at renovations,” Shaw said.
An email from Sian Rylander, a spokesperson for Hyatt, confirmed that the building is under development as a Hyatt Place and experienced an “isolated fire.” The email directed further inquiries to local authorities.
The city’s list of historic resources says the building was designed by Winnipeg architect and contractor James McDiarmid, who also completed the Manitoba Legislative Building and the Law Courts Building in Winnipeg.
Originally it was an office building for architects, insurance companies and merchant agencies. But in the late 1920s, the Jacob-Crowley company moved its clothing factory there and stayed until 1954.
During the Second World War, list of historic resources says the company made 75,000 garments for the army and navy.