Fire destroys downtown storefront

Crews attempt to extinguish a fire that broke out in downtown Prince Albert on April 21, 2021 (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Downtown business evacuated Wednesday afternoon and at least three fire trucks raced to the 800 Block of Central Ave. as a fire broke out at a storefront.

The storefront immediately north of Saigon River burst into flames Wednesday, with dark smoke billowing out and reducing visibility downtown.

According to the Prince Albert fire department, they were dispatched to the area for a report of a building explosion and fire at 1:31 p.m. They arrived to find the front wall blown out and the building fully inovlved in fire.

Responding with two aerial trucks and two engines, crews battled the fire for several hours.

Neighbouring businesses suffered some fire and smoke damage, and no injuries were reported.

Cassandra Dean was shopping at North Star trophies when the fire quickly broke out.

She had left the store to feed the parking meter and gone back to the store to finish getting a quote.

“Everything seemed normal,” she said.

“A guy ripped the door open and said, ‘ call 911’ next door is on fire.’”

Witnesses reported hearing a bang. The fire blew through the storefront’s window throwing glass across the sidewalk.

“We all popped our heads outside (the store) and that’s when the explosion happened and the glass broke,” Dean said.

“The flames were going crazy.”

One of the employees at North Star called 911. By then, though, officers on patrol downtown had started pushing people back.

Dean hurried to her vehicle and got it out of the way.

Nearby, Bonnie Hansen was waiting for the bus across the street from Sherman Towers.

“I heard a loud bang and though maybe a car crashed or something,” she said.

She turned the corner to see flames shooting out of a Central Ave. business.

Police and fire crews cordoned off the area due to smoke and due to the reported sounds of an explosion.

Crews attacked the fire from the ground and from the air.

It’s not known how the fire started. The fire department said the cause is under investigation.

The storefront that burned hadn’t operated as a store for years, nearby business owners said. The fire department said it wasn’t open at the time of the incident.

It was last operated as P.A. Fur and Leather.

A Google Street View image from 2018 shows a real estate sign in the window.