Fate of fire-damaged Woodlands Park washroom not likely to be decided until spring

Click to play video: 'Hamilton Fire battle blaze near encampment in park'
Hamilton Fire battle blaze near encampment in park
WATCH: Firefighters say two people had to be rescued during a blaze at a public washroom near an encampment in east Hamilton, Ont. Flames could be seen across the roof of the building when emergency crews arrived at Woodlands Park on Barton Street East between Wentworth and Sanford Avenues just after 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 2, 2024 – Jan 2, 2024

A decision to demolish or rebuild a public washroom in a Hamilton, Ont. park that was severely burned during an early January fire will likely have to wait until the spring.

The fire started outside of the washroom at the Barton Street East park between Wentworth and Sanford just after 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 2.

The city’s public works general manager told councillors that an investigation to determine the scope of the damage at the Woodlands Park structure is still ongoing and the timeline for a potential decision on its future likely won’t be until May.

“Next steps is there will be a structural investigation and a determination of the scope of work involved,” GM Carlyle Khan told council Wednesday.

Khan said a structural engineer will have to make the final call after it was deemed “structurally inadequate” post-fire by the city’s building division.

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Ward 3 Coun. Nrinder Nann suggested the four-month timeline to decide if it should be rebuilt or torn down “seems excessive.”

“I appreciate that whatever I can do to support staff, and support staff’s effort to expedite the timeline, I would be more than happy to do so,” said Nann.

She went on to say the community’s “sense of pride” has “taken a blow” since the blaze.

It’s suspected the blaze started on the exterior of the building. There were no serious injuries reported.

The initial damage was pegged at around $500,000 and the cause is still under investigation.

Hamilton’s fire chief has been preaching the dangers of open-air burning at encampment sites after revealing days after the blaze they’ve dealt with 43 calls of that type since early November.

“One of the things that we’re concerned about is obviously the close proximity of tents and shelters to each other,” Chief Cunliffe told Global News.

“So we basically are telling them keep your tents and shelters at least three big steps away from each other.”

He says their campaign is also reminding encampment residents to remove all the garbage and propane tanks away from tents.

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They’ve also been apprising individuals of the availability of a warming bus on evenings between 10 p.m. until 6 a.m.

The bus is a part of the city’s Winter Response Strategy is now an ongoing annual program between December and March and no longer tied to public health cold weather alerts like it was in 2022.

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