Fire has destroyed a 12

Commercial building razed in uptown Port Alberni

Fire has destroyed a large historic building on Argyle Street in Port Alberni.

Fire has destroyed a large commercial building on Argyle Street at Second Avenue.

Port Alberni Fire Department received a call at 1:23 a.m. and when crews arrived there was smoke pouring from the eaves of the entire building.  Flames were showing on the east side, along Second Avenue, fire Chief Tim Pley said.

The fire was large enough that Beaver Creek and Sproat Lake fire departments attended, the RCMP responded, city crews were on hand and both BC Hydro and Fortis BC were involved.

The building, which has been up for sale, is more than 60 years old. It comprises four units, two of which are leased out. McGill and Associates Engineering Ltd. is a longtime tenant of the building, Pley said. The other unit is leased to the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council’s Quu?asa program. Another person is using a unit for storage and a garage facility, Pley said.

“It’s been a well-functioning building.”

Weather and location proved to be challenging for fire crews, Pley said.

“The cold is a challenge. As soon as we started moving water it turned into a skating rink. Between the ice and the slope it was dangerous for our people to move around,” he said. It also affected the way crews could fight the fire, limiting places they could place equipment.

“We were challenged by the ice.”

City crews brought in a brine truck, spread rock salt and had heavy equipment scraping the ice and removing it as fast as possible.

The building’s size—it’s about 12,500 square feet—and configuration made it difficult to access, Pley said. “Thankfully, there’s nobody living in the building.”

Many similar buildings along Argyle Street have commercial or retail businesses on the ground floor and residences above, but not this one, he added. There were residents living above the Port Pub, down the hill from McGill and Associates, who were warned that they might have to be evacuated.

Power was turned off down Argyle towards Harbour Quay and for three blocks east. This was a concern, with temperatures that dipped below -10 degress Celsius overnight. Crews modified their fire attack so the power could be restored everywhere except the burning building.

“Given the weather, we felt that was a priority,” Pley said.

There was also concern about the doctor’s office behind the building on Second Avenue, but Pley added he didn’t think there was even much smoke damage. “Our ladder did a good job controlling the spread from the building to the adjacent doctor’s office.”

Argyle Street remained closed as did Second Avenue as the fire burned throughout the day.

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