Winnipeg, MB Six-Story Warehouse Building Blaze, Feb 1958

Wilson Furniture Fire


Thirty-seven minutes after leaving a "false alarm" blaze Tuesday Winnipeg firemen, were recalled to face an out-of-control conflagration responsible for the total destruction of a six-story brick warehouse building, a service station and a two story frame building.
The spectacular three-alarm fire illuminating the early morning sky with crimson flames searing through belching smoke destroyed the WILSON Furniture Co. warehouse, 281 Rupert avenue, the SYDNEY J. ROBINSON Fur Co., 277 Rupert avenue and an Esso Service station, Princess street and Rupert avenue.
No definite damage figures were available but preliminary estimates ranged between $300,000 and $500,000.
Fireman WALTER "GEORGE" GOSHALUK and PERCY McCORRISTON were treated at Winnipeg General hospital for injuries and released. MR. GOSHULAK suffered chest injuries when a heavy door fell on him. His fibre helmet was severely crushed.
MR. McCORRISTON suffered cuts to the face from flying glass.
Fire department officials said they first received an alarm from a box at Princess street and Ross avenue at 5:27 a.m. When firemen arrived at the scene no one was at the box and a search of the area didn't reveal any indications of a fire. They returned to their stations, branding the call as a false alarm.
At 6:04 a.m. another alarm was received and when firemen arrived at the scene, the main floor of the tall warehouse was burning furiously. The second alarm was turned in at 6:19 a.m. and the third at 7:31 a.m.
Firemen were hampered in their efforts to get at the blaze because the east and west walls of the building are solid brick with no windows.
Fanned by a south-easterly wind gusting up to 32 m.p.h., the flames soared to the other floors and firemen working on the roof were forced to scamper back to their aerial ladders.
When the fire reached the roof, the building looked like a giant chimney with flames leaping nearly 100 feet. The black smoke billowed skyward and could be seen for several miles.
Burning debris drifted over the streets and buildings and Fire Chief DAVE DUNNETT sent men scurrying to roof tops to prevent further outbreaks.
Police evacuated the Cabinet hotel, Princess street and Pacific avenue. Residents along Pacific and Alexander avenue two blocks west of Princess street were aroused because of the dense smoke.
At 7:35 a.m. the top portion of the east wall of the warehouse toppled onto the SYDNEY I. ROBINSON building setting the premises on fire.
Moments later, the top portion of the west wall plunged on the service station reducing the structure to rubble. At 7:50 a.m. about a third of the west wall fell onto the already smashed service station.
The service station lot was a mas of rubble with tons of brick lying everywhere.
Trucks and cars parked on the station lot had been towed away before the flames reached the roof of the warehouse.
BERT TIMBERS, 14 Cherokee Bay, St. Boniface, owner of the station said he had purchased the business last fall. He said insurance was carried on the premises.
At 8 a.m. most of the fire fighting equipment was directed on the ROBINSON building. Firemen kept the blaze from an adjacent building which housed ammunition.
SYDNEY ROBINSON, owner of the firm, was in Montreal. His son EARL said he could give no estimate of damage. As firemen were fighting the fire, he was attempting to rent another building on Rupert avenue.
GEORGE A. WILSON, president of WILSON Furniture said the fire didn't effect the operation of their retail store at 352 Main Street. He said the contents of the warehouse were worth approximately $50,000.
MR. WILSON said he could not estimate the damage of the building which the firm had occupied for 35 years. He said the structure was between 50 and 60 years of age.
According to the president, JOHN C. STOREY, 700 Langside street, a shipper in the warehouse, was the last man in the building. He left at 5:30 p.m. Monday.
Chief DUNNETT said approximately 100 men were fighting the fire at the worst stage.
NORMAN CAMPBELL, assistant fire commissioner, despatched to the scene to investigate the fire said he thought the fire probably started in the basement. He was assisted by L. P. ODETTE in the investigation.
The fire hampered early morning traffic with both King and Princess streets blocked off.
Hundreds of persons going to work stopped to gaze at the blaze and had to be pushed back from danger by policemen. Dozens of amateur photographers were seen trying to get shots of the spectacular sight.

The Winnipeg Free Press Manitoba 1958-02-25