Saint John apartment building destroyed by fire to be torn down

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Saint John apartment building destroyed by fire to be torn down

An apartment building destroyed by fire in Saint John's heritage district overnight Monday will be torn down, a city spokesperson has confirmed.

The city issued an emergency notice to comply order for the demolition of 75-77 Duke St., pursuant to the provisions in the Municipalities Act, Lisa Caissie said in an email to CBC News on Tuesday afternoon.

"Given the conditions expected with the [snowstorm] this evening, contractors will have to wait until tomorrow to begin the demolition," Caissie said.

Security will be on site to protect the public until demolition of the 19th-century brick structure begins, she said.

Saint John Fire Department platoon chief Eric Garland was hoping the building could be bulldozed on Tuesday.

"It's obviously a hazard the way it is sitting there right now," Garland had said, with ice-covered ash littering the road at his feet.

Although the building was still standing, the inside was gutted, he said.

15 people left without home

Fifteen people and their pets have been displaced by the blaze.

"We'll probably work with some of the residents or tenants of the building to see if it might be possible to get some of their belongings or some of the things they've lost," Garland said.

"There's everything from computers to passports still in there."

Fire officials first had to determine whether it was safe for trained crews to re-enter the destroyed structure, he said.

Helping with food, shelter

The Red Cross is providing emergency food, clothing and shelter to some of the affected tenants for 72 hours.

"We are currently assisting five adults, all male, all roommates," said spokesperson Melanie MacDonald.

Two Red Cross volunteers were at the scene on Monday night, she said.

The fire call came in around 11:30 p.m., Garland said.

When crews arrived, the building was in flames, and continued burning until after 4 a.m. Crews were still spraying down hotspots several hours later.

One firefighter was transported to the hospital but his condition was "not life-threatening," Garland said.

"He was not injured. He just has difficulties, some pains. Stuff like that."

Garland said a number of things might cause such pain for a firefighter, including smoke inhalation and dehydration.

Artist awaked by sirens

Artist Sarah Jones, who lives and works in the building next door, said she was nervous it would catch fire.

"The building seemed OK," she said. "But it's the closest I've been to a fire. It was daunting. 

"And the building's so tiny. Are we going to get crushed?"

Luckily, she said, fire crews were on site protecting her home and studio. The lack of wind helped keep the fire from spreading.

Other than a little water damage in the basement, her building and paintings escaped unscathed.

Owning a large 200-pound Newfoundland dog, Jones tends to sleep with earplugs. She slept through the early part of the fire and woke when the fire engines arrived.

"Then I rescued my dog, who is supposed to be a rescue dog," she said.

She watched the fire burn from across the street until after 4 a.m. The roof of the building had burned right off and, while most of the other buildings on the street remain untouched, one building on the opposite side of Jones's studio had its windows smashed.

"Could have been broken by debris blowing off the other building," Garland said.