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Wind-Driven Fires Gut One Block Of Downtown St. John’s

December 22, 1992

ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland (AP) _ Fires fueled by gusty winds gutted a downtown block in this provincial capital on Monday night, setting off several explosions and forcing the evacuation of nearly 1,000 people.

The fire appeared to have resulted only in minor injuries, but the property loss was major.

As firefighters battled flames fanned by wind gusts up to 40 pmh, steaming torrents of water gushed down the hill from the blazing block.

Huge columns of ice formed as firefighters sprayed rows of adjacent wooden houses to keep them from catching fire.

Leveled were the 82-year-old Church Lads Brigade armory, an adjacent Social Services Department building and several buildings across the street.

″The entire block is gone,″ police Lt. Robert Shannahan said early Tuesday. ″It’s just smoldering now with flames shooting up now and again.″ Officials said the blaze was contained by about 2 a.m.

The fire also demolished the Big R - a popular fish restaurant - along with a used-book store and several take-out shops.

Several firefighters suffered minor injuries, primarily from falls, said Fire Capt. Pat Coombs. He said one was hurt when a propane tank exploded.

Some of those evacuated from the surrounding area went to an evacuation set up in an old brick fisheries college,where Red Cross and other relief workers served coffee to people still in pajamas.

″It’s very fortunate when the fire started in the vacant (armory) building, that gave us a lot of warning,″ said Shannahan. ″It gave us ample time to start evacuating.″

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