Fires and air quality near industrial parks concern Winnipeggers

Fires and air quality near industrial parks concern Winnipeggers, Vladimir Volenyuk

Unfortunately, fires or other life-threatening incidents are happening at industrial and production sites quite often. That is really concerning not only for employees and visitors on site but also for people living in the area. Incidents like that always affect the air quality in surrounding areas, which are often full of houses with people inside that have no other choice but just breathe that air.

After two recent fires at industrial properties in Winnipeg, some residents are worried it might be time to move.

On Monday afternoon, a massive blaze broke out inside Friendly Family Farms oil processing plant in St. Boniface.

Later it turned out that black smoke, which stands above the fire, does not pose much danger. It is a product of burning vegetable oil, but the air quality check in the district did not reveal any threats, Deputy Fire Chief Russ Drohomereski said. As a result, the factory building was completely destroyed by fire, although its cause has not yet been established. During the fire in the building, there were 3 employees but none of them was seriously injured.

This plant had previously had 2 fires in 2017 but their consequences were not so devastating. Now the streets around the fire site are closed, and the fire brigade is still working, eliminating the last pockets of fire.

Another fire happened on different industrial site in Winnipeg. Approximately at 10 a.m. on Monday, October 22nd the fire started at Pounder Emulsions at 28 hundred Day Street. The Transcona Asphalt plant caught on fire, the rescue and firefighter teams were called and dispatched to control the fire and help people if needed.

City of Winnipeg authorities had posted a public message on one of their social media accounts: “Emergency crews evacuated businesses within an 800-meter area of the fire location out of an abundance of caution. Certain schools in the area also evacuated - contact school division for more info.”

Also, people living in a two-kilometer range, who have breathing problems or some other health issues, involving breath ways are recommended to stay indoors to avoid being exposed to a toxic smoke from the fire.

Winnipeg Police had also posted a tweet about road closures:

“ROAD CLOSURES: The Area bound by Day Street, Redonda, North Perimeter and Paulley/Larche is closed to traffic due to a working fire. Please avoid the area.”

RCMP Manitoba also tweeted a warning:

“Emergency crews are at an asphalt plant fire in the industrial area of the RM of Springfield. Gunn Rd entrance is closed at the Perimeter Hwy. Please avoid the area.”

The River East-Transcona School Division evacuated Harold Hatcher School and placed three other schools on hold-and-secure lockdowns to prevent smoke from entering. The whole situation got a lot of people scared and worried about kids and school employee’s lives and health. So the decision about the evacuation was made instantly and everyone was notified in a matter of minutes.

The city said the situation was well in hand as of 4:30 p.m. but crews were continuing to monitor. A number of programs scheduled for the evening were canceled to avoid a big number of people gathering in one location, which could be possibly exposed to toxic smoke or in the fire danger zone.

As of now, there was no official statement from Winnipeg Police or Winnipeg city authority’s spokesperson, the investigation is still ongoing, so no information about the reasons of fire and what led to such outcome. No injuries reported so far, as per firefighter crews, nobody got hurt from their team, but there is no information about civilian victims or plant employees, that might have got in the fire or got injuries caused by the fire.

The Fire Department report will be presented later when the investigation is closed. If you have any useful information about the reason of the fire, about anybody involved or got injured during the incident, please contact the local police department or leave a tip online, just visit Crime Stoppers website.

But with more residential neighborhoods popping up closer and closer to industrial parks, the concern from Winnipeggers grows with each fire. Over the last three decades, Winnipeg has changed significantly. The city has grown by nearly 88,000 people and to make room, neighborhoods have popped up in places once strictly used for agriculture or industrial purposes.

“The air smells bad and it’s not good,” Elfred Besana said. “It’s not healthy. I was worried.”

Besana lives in St. Boniface with his wife and three children. He said after moving to the largely industrial area four years ago, he now thinks it might be time to move. 

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