Massive fire engulfs buildings on Princess St.

Stranded worker rescued by military helicopter

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A stranded construction worker was dramatically rescued from a massive fire scene Tuesday afternoon at Princess and Victoria Streets.

A military helicopter was called in from Canadian Forces Base Trenton to rescue a worker trapped on a crane above the blaze, which started at the site of a student housing development under construction at 663 Princess St. The worker sat atop the tip of the crane waiting for the rescue as onlookers held their breath. The fire was first called in at 2:18 p.m and the rescue took place about an hour later.

According to the Kingston Police Force (KPF), all construction workers are accounted for and Kingston Fire and Rescue have control of blaze.

The scene’s perimeter extended further and further as the afternoon went on, due to concerns about spreading flames and smoke, and authorities have advised anyone living within a certain perimeter of the site to evacuate their homes.

Both a home and a hotel next to the fire scene also caught on fire, and firefighters were worried about flames spreading to a nearby gas station. There were concerns Tuesday evening that the crane would tip over, but as of Wednesday afternoon, it remained standing.

Susan Nicholson, spokesperson for the City of Kingston, told the Journal that around 150 people were evacuated from the site. Most were relocated to Portsmouth Olympic Harbour, a designated evacuation zone.

According to Nicholson, around 40 workers were in the structure when the fire began.

The Kingston Police Force (KPF) set up a smaller evacuation perimeter inside the cordoned off area, where it was mandatory that all residents leave the area.

The firefighter crews and the perimeter remained overnight Tuesday into Wednesday morning.

Evacuated residents either left to stay with a relative or friend, or were transported to the Portsmouth Olympic Harbour to stay overnight, according to KPF spokesperson Steve Koopman. The cause of the fire is currently unknown, he said, and will be determined by Kingston Fire and Rescue and the Ministry of Labour following an investigation.

The initial site of the fire is a student housing development owned by Jay Patry that is currently under construction and was set to open in Sept. 2014.

In November, Kingston resident Sharon Deline sent a letter to the City Council arguing against expanding the number of units in the building at 663 Princess St., citing the dangers it already posed to its residents.

In the letter, she noted several fire hazards, which included the large size of the building, the flammable wood used in its construction and the nearby gas station.

“The structure is known locally as the “Tinderbox” for an obvious reason: it is made completely of some sort of press or chip board with no concrete or steel,” she stated.

“It is hard to feel safe in the City when the decisions being made by the Planning Committee and by City Council do not appear to care for the safety and welfare of the Residents.”

In an interview with the CBC Wednesday morning, Kingston Mayor Mark Gerretsen also expressed that he had concerns about the building before the fire.

Wednesday afternoon, the AMS provided personal care items at the JDUC for student evacuees. Tuesday, they released a statement advising students who have signed a lease with the developer to avoid making any quick decisions regarding their housing arrangements.

“The AMS and university are working together to gather as much information as possible in light of the fire, and will continue to provide support,” the statement read.

“Queen’s Legal Aid has been appraised of the situation, and will help any student seeking guidance on their contract.”

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