Updates to this story can now be found here.
Update, 9:53 a.m.
Investigators are now combing debris. There is no word on what caused the blaze. The fire is now out, but a fire truck remains on the scene to put out potential flare-ups. We will be talking with city and fire officials shortly. The owner of Speedway International is said to be devastated.
Update, 8:31 a.m.
Fire officials on the scene peg the damage from last night’s fire at a good $15 million. Nicolas Avenue still closed to traffic.
Update, 6:09 a.m.
The fire at Speedway International continues to burn, but streets around the blaze have re-opened, with the exception of Nicolas Avenue.
Firefighters are currently putting out hot spots and two trucks remain on the scene.
If you have been evacuated, you are allowed to return home.
The building, scrap cars and four rail cars have been destroyed.
Metro Winnipeg will have the latest on the fire as updates are given throughout the day.
Story published at 9:30 p.m.:
At least 55 firefighters struggled through the night to put out what can only be described as a massive chemical blaze in St. Boniface.
Thick plumes of grayish-black smoke snaked through the air just before 5:30 p.m. at Speedway International’s biodiesel plant Monday and it wasn’t long before the fire was driving everyone, including firefighters, back from the scene. Almost a million litres of fuel were estimated to be inside.
Witnesses and evacuees at the scene described intense heat and constant ground-rumbling explosions, including one massive fireball that exploded at about 6:15 p.m., sending people and media fleeing.
Streets around the area were quickly shut down and emergency personnel tried in vain to discourage gawkers from getting too close to the blaze, which was the size of two football fields at 10 p.m.
Firefighters had just started pouring fire-suppression chemicals on the fire at press deadline, waiting due to the possibility of explosions and worries five nearby rail cars filled with fuel may also explode.
Residential neighbourhoods were evacuated throughout the area, and police and city officials told others affected by the smoke to keep their windows shut.
Despite the ferocity of the fire, no one appeared to have been injured in the fire, including the nine workers at the plant, who were all accounted for.
A man who works at the plant at 40 Nicolas Avenue said there are all sorts of chemicals in the plant, which supplies methanol to the cars that race there. “It could be anything in there,” he told a Metro reporter, warning him to stay away from the smoke and flames before driving away to speak to the fire captain.
This is the sixth major fire in Winnipeg in the past 24 hours, including a grass fire, two house fires, a fire at the Canada Post building and a fire that consumed two garages and a home.