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Regina’s year of the fires in 2023

It sure seemed like there were more high-profile fires than usual in Regina in the past year.

REGINA - It was an unnerving year of fires in Regina, with some major fires happening at both commercial and residential locations in the city.

The year was marked by destructive commercial fires, one of which resulted in the demolition of a historic structure in downtown Regina, as well as a major scrap metal fire north of the city which was only recently put out. The year was also marked by tragedy with the loss of life at two locations, as well as concerns about fires hitting the homeless community directly.

Here is a look back at some of the more newsworthy fire situations in the city this year: 

The Gordon Block fire

Sept. 25 saw the sad end to a heritage property in downtown Regina. The Gordon Block building on the 2100 block of 12th Ave. was hit by a major fire that occurred at the property that morning, causing major structural damage to the interior of the building.

Portions of 12th Avenue had to be taped off to allow fire crews to work on putting out the hot spots.

It was finally determined the 111-year-old structure had to be demolished and work to deconstruct the structure proceeded later in the week. 

It was determined soon after that the fire at Gordon Block had been intentionally set.

The Battery Depot fire

Nov.  28 saw a major commercial fire at the 900 block of Dewdney Ave., home to Battery Depot. CAA Saskatchewan later issued a statement in which they confirmed the fire took place at CAA’s Regina Car Care Centre at Regina Battery Depot.

CAA stated there was "extensive damage to the northeast corner of the building which is currently being demolished to ensure safety at the site. The remainder of the building received water and smoke damage. No one was in the building at the time. The business is closed until further notice."

Tent encampment fire situation

Concerns about fires and the homeless encampment situation in Regina were intertwined in 2023. Fire officials had to step in to clear out one encampment that had set up in front of Regina City Hall over safety issues.

It was on orders of Regina Fire to clear the City Hall encampment at the end of July, after three fires at the encampment in less than a week. There had been two more fires on the day the encampment was ordered decommissioned. 

At the time City Manager Niki Anderson had this to say:

“I’d like to thank Fire Chief Layne Jackson for prioritizing public safety in the midst of an incredibly complex situation. I am convinced his decision has saved lives. As the City’s Administrative leader, I also want to emphasize the legislated separation of powers that allowed Chief Jackson to act urgently in response to an imminent public safety risk. Three fires at the encampment in less than a week established that camp residents faced imminent risk. Two more fires today provided more evidence that decommissioning the camp was absolutely necessary.”

But that was not the end of the issues of fires at homeless encampments. In mid-October, one person was injured when a tent encampment fire broke out at a separate location on Halifax Street. The cause was determined to be from misuse of an open flame device.

Two fatal fires in Regina in December

The month of December was a deadly one in Regina with two separate fatal fires in the period of a couple of weeks. Two people were found deceased Dec. 9. after a fatal fire at a residence on Rae Street; it was later determined electrical tampering was a cause of the fire. Two weeks later, two more were found deceased after a fire at a property on Winnipeg St. in Regina. That fire was later determined to have been intentionally set,

Fire Chief Layne Jackson spoke to reporters of the impact of the fatal fires for his department and for the city:

“It’s a traumatic event not only for the firefighters, (and) as I said first and foremost for the families and friends of the folks, the community and neighbours. But for us… we really want to prevent these incidents from happening so when they do happen, it’s a tough day.”

Wheat City Metals fire

The fire that probably created the biggest plume of smoke seen in the city was the Wheat City Metals fire that happened just north of Regina in the RM of Sherwood in late December. 

The scrap metal fire took four days to put out, but it was brought under control by fire crews on the first day and fully out by Dec. 31. Regina Fire stayed on the scene over the several days of controlling and extinguishing the fire. The RM of Sherwood is handling the investigation.