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Major fire tears through heritage building in downtown Montreal

Click to play video: 'Global News Morning headlines: May 26, 2023'
Global News Morning headlines: May 26, 2023
Laura Casella has the Global News Morning headlines for Friday, May 26, 2023 – May 26, 2023

A major fire at a downtown heritage building in Montreal is still burning Friday morning after more than 12 hours.

Environment Canada issued a special air quality statement, saying the smoke is “causing poor air quality and reduced visibilities in areas near the fire.”

“Pollution levels are above normal and expected to persist until midday,” the weather agency said.

“Individuals may experience symptoms such as increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches or shortness of breath. Children, seniors, and those with cardiovascular or lung disease, such as asthma, are especially at risk.”

A spokesperson for the Montreal fire department said they were alerted at 4:30 p.m. Thursday to smoke coming from the roof of a building located at the intersection of Sherbrooke Street East and Coloniale Avenue.

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Smoke filled the sky in the downtown area, with several people near and far posting photos on Twitter.

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“It’s still not under control,” Fire Chief Robert Rousseau told Global News, shortly before 7 p.m. Thursday.

Rousseau confirmed the fire was located in the roof of the building and that it spread quickly.

Around 150 firefighters were at the scene working to contain the five-alarm fire as police redirected traffic.

Rousseau said it’s not yet known what sparked the blaze or why it spread so quickly. Because it was an old building, it’s possible the wood was really dry, he said, while also remaining cautious and not wanting to speculate.

Rousseau said there were no reports of injuries, but one firefighter was evaluated by paramedics.

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“He refused transport to hospital,” Rousseau said.

Firefighters carried out two thorough sweeps of the building to make sure no one remained inside.

The historic building, known as Monastère du Bon-Pasteur, is a multi-purpose building with offices, a residence for autonomous seniors, apartments and a chapel where concerts are sometimes held.

One of the organizations with an office at the location is Heritage Montreal, a non-profit, whose mission it is to protect the city’s architectural, historical, natural and cultural heritage.

The group is following the developments closely and posting updates on social media.

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It was first built in 1846 by the nuns of Notre-Dame de Charité du Bon-Pasteur and underwent several expansions over the years to meet the growing needs of the community. It was declared a heritage building in 1979.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante also took to social media Thursday evening to express her concern and is asking people to avoid the area.

She wrote it was too soon to assess the damage to the “precious” heritage and confirmed there were no injuries. She also thanked firefighters for their hard work.

A recent fire in Old Montreal ripped through another of the city’s heritage buildings, killing seven people and injuring several others.

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with files from Global News’ Kalina Laframboise and The Canadian Press

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