Edmonton police have taken over investigating a suspicious fire that tore through a two-storey building along Jasper Avenue early Wednesday morning, causing an estimated $1.5 million in damage.
Edmonton Fire Rescue Services said crews were called at 5:51 a.m. to the fire at a commercial building along the west end of Jasper Avenue near 117 Street. The fire shut down a stretch of the Edmonton road for a few hours.
George Stang was walking to work when he came upon the fire.
“The door blew open, and all you could see was a bunch of smoke. It was crazy. I’ve never seen anything like that before,” he said.
Stang’s boyfriend called 911. Firefighters arrived on the scene at 5:55 a.m.
The fire was upgraded to a two-alarm response, and 48 firefighters were called to the scene. Edmonton Fire Rescue Services said the fire was brought under control at 7:03 a.m.
The fire broke out in the basement of the building that used to house the longstanding Buddy’s nightclub and Woody’s Video Bar, both of which catered to Edmonton’s LGBTQ community. Both closed in 2016.
Another bar — Circus Nightclub — also appeared to have operated in the building, however its Yelp listing said the business was closed.
A sign in the upstairs window said Lounge 117 was coming soon.
Edmonton Fire Rescue said the unit where the fire originated was not occupied and no one was in the building at the time. Firefighters did evacuate surrounding businesses.
EFRS said the fire started in the lower level of the building.
“Right now we do believe it might be the kitchen and bar,” district chief Howard Samycia said on scene.
“The entrance into to the basement is the east side. I, personally, have not been into the basement so I don’t know how it is structured,” he said. “The fire crews that were in there did say it is broken up into a lot of different rooms down there.”
Samycia believes the building will be salvageable. He said no suspicious flammables were found on scene, however on Thursday Edmonton police said it had taken over the investigation and believed the fire was deliberately set.
Police said at 7 a.m. that a section of the road between 116 Street and 118 Street would be closed for several hours due to the fire and drivers were advised to find alternate routes. However it re-opened at around 8:15 a.m.
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