Winnipeg building fire shuts down part of Main Street to morning traffic on Wednesday

Several people have been forced from their homes after a fire ripped through the building that housed a Winnipeg art gallery and several apartment suites early Wednesday morning. 

Emergency crews responded to reports of a fire in a combined commercial and residential building on Main Street, between Alexander and Logan avenues, shortly after 5 a.m. Wednesday, the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service said in a news release.

The building at 611 Main St. is home to the Edge Gallery and Urban Art Centre, which specializes in ceramics and pottery, plus about half a dozen residential units. 

The gallery’s director, Elise Nadeau, also calls the building home. She said she was woken up by the smell of smoke and alarms, and tried to fight the flames herself with a fire extinguisher. 

“All I cared about was putting this thing out, but then I was overwhelmed by the smoke,” she said.

A woman is seated while being interviewed by a reporter.
Elise Nadeau, director of the Edge Gallery and Urban Art Centre, says the fire is ‘so discouraging and so disheartening,’ after the gallery seemed to be taking a turn for the better after dealing with vandalism and thefts. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

No one was hurt, but the gallery’s studio space was badly damaged. 

Nadeau said the gallery is her life.

“It’s a place to create, a place downtown. We have such a great community,” she said.

The last couple of years have been challenging for the gallery, which has had to cope with increasing vandalism and thefts, Nadeau said, but it felt like things were starting to take a turn for the better. 

The gallery had recently received a grant to fix its front door and was putting in shatter-proof windows, she said. 

Now, she’s struggling to figure out how to move forward. 

“It’s just so discouraging and so disheartening that we’ve done so much work and … we’re like, yeah, we’re finally over this hump, and then this happens.”

Nadeau and other residents are now staying at a hotel while they wait to learn whether they’ll be able to return to the building. 

The building sustained serious smoke, fire and water damage but damage estimates are not yet available, according to the fire department.

Winnipeg blues legend Billy Joe Green has lived in the building since 2010. 

“We would have stayed till the building fell down, but instead it burned down,” he said. 

Portrait of a man wearing a cowbody hair and sunglasses.
Blues musician Billy Joe Green was one of the residents who has been displaced by the fire. (Jesse Green)

On Wednesday afternoon, he was at Walmart shopping for essentials after being forced to flee his home with nothing but his cellphone, wallet and the clothes on his back. 

“There was no time. The fire at our at our apartment was coming up the window so fast we had to get out immediately.”

Firefighters were able to retrieve some of his guitars, some of which are worth thousands of dollars. But due to the smoke and water damage to this apartment, he doesn’t know when he’ll be able to move back — if ever. 

“It’s a difficult thing, losing your home and and your tools of trade and all the beautiful neighbours we have,” said Green.

The cause of the fire is being investigated.

Fire damages art gallery, several apartments on Main Street

1 hour ago

Duration 2:39

Several people have been forced from their homes after a fire ripped through the building that housed an art gallery and several apartment suites early Wednesday morning.

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