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Regina heritage building on 12th Ave. to come down after fire

Structure at 2170 12th Avenue known as Gordon block, built in 1911, to be deconstructed following a major fire.

REGINA - A commercial heritage building on 12th Avenue in downtown Regina will come down following a major fire on the weekend.

The over century-old building at 2170 12th Ave. known as Gordon block, built in 1912, will require what the city describes as "building deconstruction" to fully extinguish the major fire that took place at the location.

Further details have been learned about the fire. According to a news release from the city, on the morning of Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023, Regina Fire and Protective Services received a call at approximately 4:45 a.m. about the fire. 

Firefighters responded and have been on the scene since Sunday. The portion of 12th Avenue in front of the building has remained closed since then, with the only vehicles seen there being firefighting and related equipment. 

In an update to reporters on the fire, Randy Ryba, Fire Marshal, said the “investigation is still ongoing as we speak. We have completed some of it from the periphery and from above. We have to continue on, so we haven’t left any stones unturned as far as the investigation portion goes.”

Regarding the fire, Ryba said it was a defensive response from almost the outset. 

“It was too unstable to go in… initially, our crews did enter, and they were driven back by unstable conditions,” said Ryba. “And when you’re trying to fight defensively, you can’t get to the hotspots within the middle of a very large structure. The portions that collapse, they collapse on burning entities, and they continue to burn, so yes, we put a lot of water on it, but it’s not hitting the right spots.”

That was why they had kept crews on the scene until now. The indication from Ryba is that only today, at about 3 in the morning, has the smouldering come to an end.

As for bringing the building down, that is expected to happen over the next few days, with residents being asked to maintain their distance as large equipment and trucks go in and out. On Monday, the city states crews were on site removing lighting on the plaza as well as the art installation on the building. 

As for events scheduled downtown this weekend, the City of Regina says it is working with Regina Farmers’ Market, and with organizers for both the National Truth and Reconciliation on Saturday, Sept. 30, and the Zombie Walk on Sunday, Oct. 1 to adapt event plans as needed. 

According to the city a demolition company has been contracted by the building owner to perform deconstruction, and the indication is Regina Fire and Protective Services will be on scene for oversight of the process. 

As for next steps, Ryba said they are positioning an apparatus to the front window so they can try and clear the third floor.

“It’s wide open space on the third floor. No partition walls, wide-open. The floor has collapsed, the back third of it,” said Ryba. “But we can view everything from our vantage point behind this building on the floor except the front third, so that’s what we’re attempting to do now.”

Ryba said they are starting to put down heavy timber on the plaza so it doesn’t get damaged by the heavy equipment. Then the deconstruction work will start sometime Wednesday morning. 

As for utilities such as water, power, and natural gas, Ryba said all of those are disconnected before the contractor comes in. 

Ryba said his crews and inspectors will be on scene as long as necessary. He believes if everything goes right the deconstruction should be done in three or four days. The deconstruction process should also assist the fire department in determining the cause.

“It’ll expose portions of the building that’s too dangerous to get into at this point. So that is the whole idea of removal or deconstructing pieces of it, so it exposes portions I need to look at," Ryba said.

"If the building was structurally stable, it would be much easier but because it isn’t, I’m not going to risk our lives.”

Ryba was also asked about the police investigation into an individual facing 31 counts related to damaging gas meters and gas lines in the downtown area at around the same time as the fire on Sunday. When pressed by reporters if that had anything to do with the fire, he responded “it doesn’t have anything to do with it to my knowledge.”

This is not the first time Ryba has seen a heritage building burn in the city, he said.

“It’s a sad state because I grew up in the city. I was born in the city, and I know how the city evolved. To see something (burn) that I’ve seen or seen… when I was a child makes me sad. And that’s why heritage is so important to our city.”

Autumn Dawson, Director of Planning and Development Services for the city, said it was “devastating” to lose a heritage property.

Dawson was asked about the property itself. She confirmed the property was vacant, and also confirmed that there had been an application by the owner for a demolition permit on the property in May of 2022.

“We worked collaboratively with the property owner and we got an assessment done on the property. Through that assessment, it was determined that we could work towards maintenance of the building.”

She adds they worked with the property owner throughout the year, and “the demolition permit was cancelled earlier this year."

As far as maintaining the building was concerned, Dawson said there had been “open lines of communication with the property owner on this property. We were looking towards efforts for maintenance and ways to preserve the building.”

As for what can be saved from the building, Dawson said they would try and preserve “as much character defining elements as we can on the property.”

Those would include such things as lion’s heads and some of the stonework around the building, and some of the lower level. Whether the facade can be saved is something they will work through. "Everybody’s agreed to preserve as much as possible.”

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