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Massive fire consumes historic airport Hangar 11 near NAIT in central Edmonton

A large fire broke out Monday night at a municipal airport hangar in central Edmonton, destroying the historic resource.

The 7,400-square-metre wood-framed Hangar 11 was situated between the NAIT campus and Blatchford, alongside what used to be Edmonton’s City Centre Airport.

The City of Edmonton said the fire began just before 7 p.m. and was upgraded to a second-alarm response half an hour later.

A fire destroyed the historic Hangar 11 that was part of the former municipal airport in central Edmonton on Monday, April 22, 2024. Courtesy: Dustin Strazza/Kelly Salisbury

The city said 11 crews, or about 44 firefighters, were working on the fire as heavy smoke and flames poured out of the hangar.

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No injuries have been reported so far, the city said. LRT service on the Metro Line has been temporarily suspended to the new NAIT/Blatchford Market station and the city said trains are turning around at Kingsway/Royal Alex station.

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The flames and thick, black smoke could be seen from several kilometres away. Closer to the scene near 109th Street and 117th Avenue, ash and smoke was raining down on the ground.

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A crowd gathered to watch the historic building go up in flames. People could be seen watching from the top of the NAIT parkade.

A fire destroyed the historic Hangar 11 that was part of the former municipal airport in central Edmonton on Monday, April 22, 2024. Courtesy: Dustin Strazza/Kelly Salisbury

Edmonton police on scene were telling bystanders in the area, as well as news crews, to move away over fears the fumes could be toxic.

The fire spread to the grass between the hangar and the NAIT main campus, as well as the Brig. James Curry Jefferson Armoury beside the hangar.

That facility is home to the Loyal Edmonton Regiment, a reserve infantry unit of the Canadian Forces.

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A large fire broke out at an old municipal airport hangar between the NAIT campus and Blatchford in central Edmonton on Monday, April 22, 2024. Sarah Ryan, Global News

Firefighters were seen on the roof the Armoury, trying to get the upper hand on the situation as strong wind gusts fanned the flames.

Debris was seen on the ground at Kingsway Mall nearby.

By 8:30 p.m., most of the building had been consumed by the flames.

NAIT said it was monitoring the fire but as of Monday night. classes and exams on Tuesday were expected to proceed as scheduled.

A large fire broke out at an old municipal airport hangar between the NAIT campus and Blatchford in central Edmonton on Monday, April 22, 2024. Courtesy: Garry Melnyk

Historic Hangar 11 is no more

Hangar 11 was a municipal historic resource that was constructed in 1942 by the U.S. Air Force to support the Second World War efforts.

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Once the United States entered the war, the city said the country built a series of airfields. Edmonton’s airfield at Blatchford Field became the headquarters of the Alaskan Wing and Air Transport Command.

The city said Hangar 11 played a significant role in the Lend-Lease program that had the U.S. provide military equipment to the allies before and after it joined the war.

The city said the field was, at times, the busiest airfield in the world with nearly 900 flights arriving each day.

Hangar 11 was believed to be the last remaining building of its kind in Western Canada.

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It was declared a historic resource in 2022, when the owners began receiving a $5-million grant to assist with rehabilitation of the building.

Edmonton-based T3 Group bought the hangar fours before that with a vision of transforming it into a place with housing, stores and restaurants.

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More to come…

— With files from Caley Ramsay, Global News

&© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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