A massive commercial fire that started Tuesday evening destroyed the $65 million Canton apartment complex being built in Oklahoma City’s Classen Curve area.
Shortly after 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, emergency crews responded to reports of a fire in the 1100 block of NW 63, where firefighters saw smoke emanating from the rooftop of The Canton.
“It wasn’t really big at first,” said Krystal Hayes, a cashier at the neighboring Torchy’s Tacos restaurant. “It was slow, but then it was a really fast spread in a really short amount of time, maybe 30 minutes.”
Firefighters fought the flames overnight, but the fire spread from the roof to the apartment complex’s fifth and fourth floors, and interior portions of the building collapsed.
“I think they had it contained for a little bit, but next thing you know, we just looked up and it was really crazy and really big,” said Amanda Nickels, a server at the nearby Flower Child restaurant. “It looked like it started in multiple different places. It was very random.”
By 7 a.m. Wednesday morning, firefighters estimated they had already spent 2 million gallons of water attempting to extinguish the blaze, but the fire still burned.
“The problem is, we’re just not able to get inside and commit crews to the interior because it’s structurally unsound,” said Chief Benny Fulkerson with the Oklahoma City Fire Department.
Fulkerson said the fire spread quickly because of a thick, foamy rubberized material on the building’s rooftop that was resistant to water. But because the apartment complex was vacant, no rescues were needed and no injuries were reported.
The fire was treated by officials as a “high rise,” five-alarm fire, with at least 80 personnel on scene and major support resources expended. Fulkerson said the complex, valued at more than $65 million dollars, was a total loss.
History of OKC's Canton luxury apartments
Construction for the 325-unit Canton apartments had started nearly two years ago, and a website indicates leasing was also underway. The five-story apartments had been promoted as an upscale development with luxury amenities, including private outdoor courtyards, a heated swimming pool, fitness center, club room, library, outdoor dog space and bicycle storage.
The apartments were being developed in a joint venture by Hines, an international real estate firm, and Humphreys Capital, an investment company in Oklahoma City. Hines had previously developed Oklahoma City's Devon Energy Center and the BOK Park Plaza skyscraper.
“We would like to thank the Oklahoma City Fire Department and other agencies for their rapid actions,” Hines and Humphreys Capital said in a joint statement Wednesday. “We are grateful no injuries have been reported. Our general contractor, CMSWillowbrook, is responsible for the site and coordinating with local responders.”
“We will fully cooperate with authorities during their investigation into the cause of the fire,” the developers said.
CMSWillowbrook thanked first responders and firefighters in a statement Wednesday, but said the construction company was “devastated at the loss of the Canton At Classen Curve project.”
“At this time, we do not know how the fire started,” CMSWillowbrook said. “The building was 369,200 (square feet) along with a 175,000 (square-foot) parking garage. The building was not occupied since the project was under construction. To our knowledge, no reports of injuries have been reported.”
Investigators began gathering information onsite. They discovered the standpipe system – which was supposed to deliver water to the top floors of the building and assist firefighting efforts – was not yet operational.
Fire officials said they expected to be battling the blaze throughout the day Wednesday. Emergency vehicles and equipment occupied much of the parking lot, but the crews otherwise anticipated nearby businesses could operate as usual. “There may be a little bit of smoke to deal with, because of all of the smoke that’s blowing east, but those people just need to monitor that,” Fulkerson said. “And if they feel like that’s too much, then make a good, wise judgment call.”
Firefighters said they consulted the Department of Environmental Quality out of concern for air quality in the area, but ultimately no evacuations were made. Fire officials also requested assistance from city storm water staff in managing water runoff at the scene.
Engineers and other representatives of apartment developers have worked with firefighters on a plan to move forward, officials say. Beginning Wednesday and throughout the next three days, the majority of the building will be demolished, with officials closely monitoring the structure.
The fire department will leave three aerial ladders, three engines and other support resources staged nearby, with crews rotating schedules as they deal with the fire’s aftermath.
Original story from:
Jessie Christopher Smith I Oklahoman I Feb. 10, 2022