Sunday, July 19, 2009

Fire destroys Memorial Drive apartment building

More than 50 firefighters battled an apartment fire in northwest Calgary that created so much thick smoke that rafters on the Bow River had to be towed away from the plume.

Fire crews were called to the four-storey structure in the 800 block of Memorial Drive at about 7 p.m. on Saturday.

They believed the blaze started in the basement, but could not get to its origin because the fire progressed so quickly, said Jeff Budai, spokesman for the Calgary fire department.

It took firefighters several hours to control the fire, as they worked to prevent it from spreading to adjacent historic apartment buildings built around the 1920s. No injuries were reported.

"All of the occupants have been accounted for," said Budai on Sunday, after investigators learned that the last tenant unaccounted for had been out of town. Six of the eight suites were occupied by tenants.

The fire department's rescue boat helped move about 10 rafts, holding a total of 30 people, on the Bow River away from the thick smoke.

An excavator helped crews tear down the building, he added. All that was left of the building on Sunday was a pile of debris.

"The fire is not suspicious," said Budai during the initial investigation.

Westbound Memorial Drive N.W. between Sixth and Ninth streets remained reduced to one lane on Sunday.

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