2 vacant North End duplexes destroyed in fire

Three vacant homes have burned in two days in Winnipeg. The most recent fire claiming two duplexes on Manitoba Avenue. Mike Albanese has the latest.

By Mike Albanese

Another vacant house fire has sparked questions surrounding a city bylaw change that was supposed to pass the cost of fire fighting onto the home owner.

“We just watched it burn and burn and burn. It was kind of scary,” said neighbour Jessica.

Where once stood potential homes for four families turned into a site of destruction Tuesday, after two duplexes burned in the city’s North End.

It’s the latest fire as Winnipeg’s vacant home problem appears to worsen.

“These landlords can fix up their properties and get decent tenants in there to prevent stuff like this from happening. So it’s very, very, very annoying for that to happen,” said Jessica.

Jessica, who chose not to appear on camera, moved from Furby Street to get away from vacant house fires. She wound up moving across from one of the worst vacant house fires of the year on Manitoba Avenue.

“The flames kind of explode out of the one remaining building right now, and that was kind of really scary, and then you could actually see sparks flying over the yellow house here too,” said Jessica as she looked over footage of the fire caught on her doorbell camera.

Aftermath of fire on Manitoba Avenue that destroyed two duplexes on April 18, 2023. (Mike Albanese/CityNews)


Jessica’s grandchildren live next door to the duplex that is now rubble. The other building is also slated for destruction. The children fled from the flames in the night.

“I ran over across and it was scary for me because there were big flames everywhere,” said Kyler Henderson.

“I was panicking that our house was going to be burned down, and we grabbed our cat, everyone was out safely and yeah, I’m kind of happy about that,” added Deshawn Hernandez.

City has yet to collect from homeowners of vacant buildings 

The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service has seen three vacant home fires in the last two days. Historically there are more fires in spring, summer and fall.

“We’re seeing a number of them on a weekly basis for sure,” said Scott Wilkinson, the assistant chief with the WFPS community risk reduction.

A change to the vacant homeowner bylaw in late January means vacant homeowners will be slapped with the bill for fire services if their vacant property burns. But so far, the city hasn’t collected any cash.

“We have started invoicing as of the beginning of March based on the parameters that are in the bylaw,” said Wilkinson. “So we have invoiced approximately nine properties – I don’t have the actual numbers because we haven’t complete the payment process or been able to recoup these costs yet. Those are still in process.

“Obviously he intent is to recoup the cost but also to provide a disincentive for people to not fully maintain homes in a secure fashion.”

The two duplexes on Manitoba Avenue are a complete loss, but no one was injured in the fires.

WATCH: Vacant property owners could face bill for fires

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