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Kingston residents hoping to return home after fire

A building under construction was ablaze in downtown Kingston on Tuesday afternoon. COURTESY: Roger Monahan

Kingston residents are hoping to return home after a massive fire prompted a dramatic rescue on Tuesday.

A military helicopter was used to rescue one man from the top of a crane. The construction worker had reportedly crawled from the crane’s cab to the peak as flames climbed higher and higher. He suffered only minor injuries.

The biggest concern remains the large crane, Kingston police told CityNews on Wednesday, and there are fears it could topple over.

There is a safety area of about 75 to 80 metres around the crane.

Authorities created a cordoned-off “collapse zone” to ensure no one would be hurt if the crane came crashing down, Kingston fire chief Rheaume Chaput told The Canadian Press, adding that engineers had been called in to determine just how unstable the metal structure had become.

“We estimate that the fire intensity there was probably about 1,000 degrees, so if it was that hot then it changes the makeup of the steel,” he said. “We don’t know how brittle or how safe it is, so we don’t want to take any chances.”

While most residents have been allowed to return, those living closest to the crane are being kept away. Power has been restored to about 95 per cent of the area, police said.

Structural engineers, the Ontario Fire Marshal and the Ministry of Labour will be inspecting the crane, and will determine a plan to bring it down.

The fire began in an apartment building that was under construction near Princess and Victoria streets around 2:15 p.m. on Tuesday.

Witness Roger Monahan of Blackstar Body Piercing told CityNews the fire was at a new residence under construction for Queen’s University.

The blaze, which forced more than 150 people from their homes, was so intense that surrounding buildings had their windows blown out, a duplex and a hotel were destroyed, and vehicles caught on fire.

While the cause of the fire was still under investigation, questions were being raised Wednesday about the structure of the five-storey building where the blaze began, although officials said it was being build according to code.

A Griffon helicopter deployed from CFB Trenton plucked the worker from the crane at 3:35 p.m. and took him to a waiting ambulance. Police said all the other construction workers at the site are believed to be accounted for.

The blaze was brought under control around 5:45 p.m. but, according to police, crews were still busy dousing hotspots on Wednesday.

With files from 1310News and The Canadian Press