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Fire levels former club

An early morning two-alarm fire has completely destroyed a building on the city’s southside. Firefighters noticed the fire on Simpson and Miles Streets shortly after 3 a.m. when responding to a vandalism call across the street.
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Smoke rises from a Simpson Street building as firefighters continues to extinguish the blaze Thursday morning. (Jodi Lundmark tbnewswatch.com)

An early morning two-alarm fire has completely destroyed a building on the city’s southside.

Firefighters noticed the fire on Simpson and Miles Streets shortly after 3 a.m. when responding to a vandalism call across the street.

"We made an attempt to do an interior attack and we found the fire to be far more advanced," said Thunder Bay Fire and Rescue Chief John Hay. "We regrouped and did an offensive attack of the building. The building is old and had a huge fire load in it."

The destroyed building was vacant, but was once a bar. Most area residents know the location as the former site of nightclub 777.

Hay said they were lucky they arrived when they did in order to protect neighbouring buildings.

"Fortunately because of our being there and the quick work and decision to protect the exposures early on and that decision provided a lot of protection for any other buildings around there," said Hay. "In fact there was a building abutted to it, joined right up to it and it has very little smoke damage – minor – and a little bit of water in the basement."

No one was injured and the cause is under investigation.

Platoon chief Fred Choma said the building was levelled and whatever was left would have to be removed.

"We’re going to have to clean up here; we’ll be here all day," he said around 10 a.m.

The below zero temperatures also provided some challenges. With the amount of water used to douse the flames, a large section of Simpson Street was covered in ice.

"The road’s treacherous," said Choma. "We have city crews here now trying to thaw out the drain. There will be no traffic here for quite a while."

Hay said the cold also damaged some of their equipment, specifically an aerial platform that froze.

"We’ve had significant breaks in some of our expensive equipment but we’ll manage," he said. "We’ll get it fixed and get it back in service as soon as possible."

Traffic in the area will likely be disrupted for the remainder of the day, said Hay.