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UPDATE: City declares Queen Street building 'immediate danger' after huge fire

City of Sault Ste. Marie has posted an 'Unsafe Order' to front of downtown building, compelling owner to hire an engineer to decide if it should be repaired or demolished

A Queen Street building that was the site of a massive fire Wednesday morning has been declared "an immediate danger" by the city's building division.

The city today posted an "Unsafe Order" on the front of the building at 645/647 Queen Street East, saying a post-fire inspection found the structure "poses an immediate danger to the health and safety of persons and/or is structural or faulty for the purpose it is to be used for.”

The order compels the owner to hire an engineer to conduct a further inspection and provide a structural report about “what work needs to be done to remedy the unsafe condition.”

Depending on what the engineer concludes, the owner must obtain the necessary permits “to have the building either repaired or demolished.” 

The "Unsafe Order" is signed by Frank Bentrovato, the city's coordinator of building inspections and bylaw enforcement.

Sault Ste. Marie Fire Services has concluded its investigation into the huge structure fire that nearly decimated the third floor of the historic downtown building Wednesday morning. 

The summary of that investigation — known as a referral letter — was received by the city’s building division Thursday after the property was handed back to the property owner, advising the municipality of structural concerns. 

As previously reported by SooToday, the building had a history of people squatting inside the premises

The city's building division then proceeded with its own investigation into the origin and cause of the blaze, Bentrovato told SooToday.

“Anyone driving by the building looking at it can see that there are structural components, such as the roof and the wall, that are substantially damaged, if not collapsed,” Bentrovato said yesterday.  

In many similar situations, an unsafe order usually gets issued on the property. Under the Ontario Building Code, an unsafe order is issued when a building is “structurally inadequate for the purpose it’s intended to be used,” said Bentrovato. 

“It’s going to outline the unsafe condition, and then it’s going to ask for remedy,” he said. “Now, the two options that the owner has to remedy is either repair the building, or demolish the building. Those are the only two options they have in order to remedy the unsafe condition.”

If the property owner doesn’t take action or comply with the order, the City of Sault Ste. Marie can get involved. 

“If you fail to comply with an unsafe order, the city will then issue an order respecting occupancy on the property,” said Bentrovato. “We have to do that — it’s a procedural requirement under the Ontario Building Code Act.”

“What an order respecting occupancy does is it gives the owner one last chance to comply with the conditions of the order, and if they don’t comply with an order respecting occupancy, then the city can take action: either repair or demolish the building in order to correct the unsafe condition.” 

Bentrovato says the property owner — Asimco Textiles, a company based in southern Ontario that lists Asim Bhatti as its president and sole director — has been “extremely cooperative” in the aftermath of Wednesday’s fire. 

“They have taken measures on their own to try to ensure that the site is safe — and as long as they keep that action up, we can work with them when it comes to timeline on unsafe orders or order respecting occupancy,” he said. 

The building division’s investigation into the fire is ongoing.

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James Hopkin

About the Author: James Hopkin

James Hopkin is a reporter for SooToday in Sault Ste. Marie
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