A large section of Winnipeg’s St. Boniface neighborhood has been closed off tonight as firefighters battle a massive blaze at a racing fuel plant.
The fire has produced giant plumes of black smoke and numerous explosions and fireballs.
Nearby residents are being evacuated and firefighters have been ordered to retreat and stay a minimum of 1,000 feet away from a huge fire at Speedway International Ltd. at 40 Nicolas Ave. in St. Boniface.
Plumes of smoke can be seen throughout the city, and several explosions have occurred, one accompanied by a huge fireball.
Speedway is a source of biofuels. A Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service spokesman also said nearby railcars contain fuel that could catch fire. The Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railway are being contacted.
Speedway International is northwest of the intersection of Archibald Street and Marion Street. Residents are being evacuated west of Archibald and north of Marion. Police have blocked off local access to many area streets, including parts of Marion Street blocks away from industrial fire.
At 6:40 pm, police told residents watching the blaze to move two blocks over from the black smoke due to safety concerns.
Terry and Ron Cwik said they don’t know when they will be able to return to their home. Both watched as a massive explosion created a huge burst of orange flames earlier today.
The Cwiks and other bystanders ran from the heat.
“When the fireball came it was so hot we had to run,” said Sandra, who did not want her last name revealed.
“It’s huge. I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Stephan Cooper, who was out with his family for a walk.
Cooper said his brother lives closer to the blaze and told him to avoid the area altogether. Cooper said police have told many people to leave he immediate area, noting police would not let him walk farther than Marion at Dufresne Ave.
And firefighters are trying to move onlookers off a hill downwind from the blaze, where they’re trying to photograph the fire.
The huge plume of smoke could be seen across the city.
Police have now closed down a park just south of Marion Street to the threat of explosions.
In the last five minutes several loud booms could be heard as massive orange flames burst from inside the black smoke.
“That was the loudest one yet,” said Steve Weedon, who rode his bike from Fort Rouge to check out the thick plume of smoke.
Gary, who did not want to reveal his last name, said police have been knocking on doors at homes close to the fire telling people to get out before the fire spreads even further.
“They’re saying the whole thing is going to blow,” he said.
Glenn Schmidt stood a few blocks from the inferno and videoed as loud pops sent explosions ripping through the blaze. He said curiosity made him want to get close enough to see what was going on.
Schmidt said firefighters were letting the fire burn since adding water would do little good.
“You can’t put it out with water. It’s diesel fuel,” he said.
Police have told curious bystanders to leave the area immediately. Police said pedestrians and motorists should also avoid the area.
City transit buses have been sent in to the area for evacuees. The area west of the blaze is being evacuated and people who live east of the Speedway facility have already been told to leave their homes.
Explosions continue to erupt inside the blaze.
Mike Neufeld, who was delivering asphalt next door when the fire started, told CBC News on Monday afternoon that he heard some explosions.
“I wasn’t that far away from it when it happened there. And it was on fire. Like it was already engulfed in flames,” he said.
“I could still make out the building there, but it wasn’t around very long.”