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‘Difficult to extinguish’ fire still burns at historic Montreal monastery




A major fire at a heritage building in Montreal continued to burn Friday, more than 12 hours after authorities were first alerted to flames and smoke.

Montreal Fire Chief Richard Liebmann said the fire at the Monastère du Bon-Pasteur, a 19th-century former monastery, is “very difficult to extinguish” given the complex structure.

“We’re still working on getting the fire out, but fortunately no one was hurt,” he told reporters gathered near the scene Friday morning.

The fire began around 4:30 p.m. Thursday and quickly became a five-alarm blaze, requiring more than 150 firefighters to intervene at the building on Sherbrooke Street.

Liebmann said no serious injuries were reported, though one man was later found and treated by paramedics. The heritage building — which includes a residence for seniors, a housing cooperative, a daycare centre and condominiums — was evacuated.

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A fire burns on at a heritage building in Montreal on Friday, May 26, 2023.

Gloria Henriquez/Global News

The fire department is certain that no one was left behind, Liebmann said. At least 20 people forced out of their homes were taken in by the Red Cross.

Environment Canada has also issued a special bulletin for poor air quality due to the smoke created by the fire. Children, seniors and people with cardiovascular or lung disease, such as asthma, “are especially at risk,” the bulletin states.

“Everybody was able to get out in time so no incident whatsoever but the quality of air is not its best so I invite Montrealers to stay away,” Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said.

Plante urged residents to avoid the area to let firefighters work.

The building, which is located in the heart of downtown Montreal, was built in 1846 and retained its religious vocation until the 1960s. It was formally recognized as a heritage building in 1979. Aside from housing, the multiservice centre includes a chapel that is now a concert hall.

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Officials say it’s too early to know when the fire will be fully out.

— with files from Global News’ Annabelle Olivier, Gloria Henriquez and The Canadian Press

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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