'It looks like a warzone': Tenants view remains of building destroyed by fire on McGillivray Boulevard

Black smoke was once again rising into the sky over South Winnipeg Friday morning. It was a flare up from a massive fire at a building on McGillivray Boulevard, which burned for hours Wednesday.

Now that the fire is extinguished, the damage remains visible to the tenants.

"The aluminum rims on the vehicles melted to the point where they are puddles underneath the vehicle," said Mervin Corbin, owner of Corbin Auto Sales. "It looks like a warzone."

Corbin's auto dealership was one of the businesses in the building that caught fire. He says he moved his vehicles to a compound next to it, hoping they would be safe.

Instead, the fire that began Wednesday afternoon, and would burn on for hours afterward would spread across the entire area.

It destroyed the building housing Pool Pros and Spartans Gymnastics, and consumed five of Corbin's vehicles. "

"It's hard to put into words," said Corbin. "It's still a little bit of shock."

Fire officials say they were confronted with an incredibly challenging blaze Wednesday. It began on the exterior of the building, and then quickly spread, fed by a severed gas line which was just a few feet from the fire's point of origin.

"A severed gas line prior to even the first fire truck arrival," said Mike Siemens, the Fire Chief for the R.M. of Macdonald. "So we were met with conditions that escalated way further than they normally do."

Siemens says fighting a fire with a severed gas line is extra challenging. "This particular business was right beside the natural gas line. The main service for the entire complex was going in there,” he said. “So, we had a large quantity of natural gas entering the building.

“Then whatever the mechanical failure on the outside, due to the heat from the fire, that severed whatever it was, (resulting in an) equipment malfunction, thereby leaving us with natural gas burning on the exterior of that building. And that is a large reason that the natural gas, that fire extended to the depth the business portion of the properties."

Siemens says the building itself is a complete loss, with millions of dollars in damage. The figure doesn't include the building's contents, or Mervin Corbin's vehicles.

"It is disheartening," said Corbin. "I lost my job last year due to Covid. And so I started my own business. The lockdowns affected business. And then right when it seemed things were opening up again, unfortunately this happens."

Still Corbin says he's grateful no one was injured in the fire, and that the vehicles were insured.

The cause of the fire is still unknown and under investigation.