Derelict Canadian Hotel damaged by fire
Fire ripped through Hamiltons derelict Canadian Hotel, causing police to temporarily close off a block of Reid Street to motorists and pedestrians.
No one was injured in the blaze; the buildings owner Thomas Powell laid the blame on intruders.
Delays are expected this morning, as the stretch of road is once again off limits to traffic.
Seven fire trucks, including a high-ladder vehicle, tackled flames that broke out on the upper floor of the empty rooming house just after 10pm on Wednesday.
Driven by a strong North wind, a pall of smoke trailed out over Hamilton Harbour as the fire emerged from the hotels roof, and floors collapsed inside.
The fire was extinguished around 2am.
Yesterday morning, the North lane of Reid Street was closed to traffic, and police later closed the whole stretch of road between Court and King Streets as a precaution.
It was later reopened to a single lane of traffic — but will be closed off again from 9.30am today while a further evaluation of the structure takes place, police said.
No parking will be allowed on the block.
Surveying the damage, Mr Powell told The Royal Gazette: There was nothing inside the building to create a fire, so it had to be individuals inside.
People would get in there illegally, despite constant efforts to keep them out.
The former rooming house has been empty for six years, but still contained some furniture, which he said may have fuelled the fire.
The fire appeared to be confined to the back of the main building, he said. The front of the old hotel looked solid.
Mr Powell said police told him an engineer would be brought in to assess whether there was any danger.
Its an old building with wooden floors and wood in the roof, he added.
Mr Powell has sought investment for years to develop the site, which consists of a few buildings grouped together, but hasnt been able to move the project forward.
There was no electricity in any of the buildings — Belco removed the transformers more than a year ago, he said.
His hunch is that individuals who sneak into the old premises through the back caused the blaze.
Apologising for massive traffic delays yesterday, police said an investigation into the cause is ongoing.
The building was boarded up and appeared discoloured yesterday. From the street, there was little evidence of change.
Twenty-five firefighters responded to the blaze on Wednesday night. The environs on Reid and Court Streets were closed off initially, and police remained overnight.
Development had been hoped for the site for several years, but had not been able to proceed without backers. Mr Powell said he had no idea how last nights fire might affect plans to demolish and rebuild at the property.
He said he had no idea if the fire exposed any possible asbestos debris in the structure. The Bermuda Fire Service offered no comment when asked.
The cheap boarding house sheltered many over the last 20 or so years.
It closed its doors for good in 2006 after Mr Powell found himself facing a $1.5 million bill to renovate and insure the premises.
Mr Powell, who is also the owner of The Spot Restaurant, blamed the Islands loss of confidence for foreign investment in the sidelining of plans to build on the half-acre lot.
Stonehaven Development Company Limited, in which he was a partner, came up with proposals for a city hotel and residences on the property. The group remains active and Mr Powell said he still has proposals before the Department of Planning.
A Special Development Order was obtained for the site in 2008.
We have two or three developers talking to us about the site, Mr Powell said. Were actively working on it at all times. I cant divulge the people who are interested, but theyre in touch with me. My personal feeling is that Bermuda just does not have the credibility internationally to get investment in it. Hopefully that will change.
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