Sunday, January 29, 2006

A "Ness" in Montreal

Gazette: Two people were injured after a fire and an explosion destroyed a three-storey apartment building in the Plateau Mont Royal area last night. All of the building's residents safely escaped the flames and blast. Police have yet to determine whether the explosion was an accident or of criminal intent. Shortly after 7, a loud noise from inside a first-floor appliance store on Park Ave. near Bernard St. rocked the area. Firefighters arrived within minutes to find the entire building ablaze. Shards of glass, door frames and window frames were strewn across the street. "When the call was made, there were reports of people caught in the building," said Denis Doucet, a chief of operations with the Montreal Fire Department. Fortunately, all the residents were outside their homes when the fire started, Doucet said. Firefighters quickly scoured parts of the building but the intensity of the five-alarm outbreak prompted them to abandon their search. "The structure of the building is in a much too dangerous state for us to go in," Doucet said, as heavy smoke billowed out of the building. Two people were treated for minor injuries to the legs, possibly caused by the blast, said a volunteer working for the Jewish ambulance service Hatzoloh, which was called as a backup for Urgences Sante. The area is home to many of Montreal's ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jews. "We're here in case they need us," Hatzoloh's Aaron Schmelszer said. Calin Ratis, who lives in a nearby building was watching last night's hockey game between the Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs when the explosion rattled his walls. "I came outside and there was a huge fire coming out of that store," said the 24-year-old university student, who had no time to grab a coat before he left. He stood outside in a track suit, bathing in the lights of about 25 fire trucks. About 20 people who were forced out of their homes were watching the blaze. An estimated 150 firefighters fought the blaze for three hours before gaining control, a fire official said. Estimated damage was upward of $500,000, fire chief Doucet said.
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