Two Historic Hangars Destroyed By Fire

Hangar 11 at Blatchford Field (Edmonton). Photo credit: Mrinali Anchan/CBC

Structural fires at opposite sides of the country have claimed two historic hangars that played key roles during the Second World War. On April 19, Hangar 8 at CFB Goose Bay (5 Wing) in Labrador caught fire and burned to the ground, cause unknown but under investigation. Three days later, Hangar 11 at the former Blatchford Field in Edmonton also burned to the ground. Although seemingly a bizarre coincidence, Edmonton authorities suspect arson might have been the cause of their blaze.

“We have forgotten today just how closely the North Americans worked together to protect North America and then to fight abroad against fascism and Nazis,” said Tim Cook, chief historian at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, in a media interview. “The loss of these two hangars in my mind is a gutting of our important contributions during the Second World War.”

Both hangars were built in support of the war effort, with both military bases where the hangars were located hosting both Royal Canadian Air Force and United States Army Air Force units. The two air bases were instrumental in supporting the delivery of thousands of aircraft built in the U.S. to overseas allies: in the case of Goose Bay, the United Kingdom; in the case of Edmonton, the Soviet Union.

The Edmonton hangar was one of the last of its type. Floor space was 7,400 square metres or around 80,000 square feet, and it was constructed of wood, typical of that era.

“It’s completely gutted, there is absolutely no saving it and I just watched it collapse about five minutes ago,” Alberta Aviation Museum curator Ryan Lee told CBC News. “It’s pretty gutting to see it go.”

The remains of Goose Bay’s Hangar 8. Photo credit: Heidi Atter/CBC

In Goose Bay, investigators, including the RCMP, are in town and are working on the case.

“It was a site, as part of the backdrop of … the old Canadian Forces base that was on this side when the Americans started this base. It was iconic to the area,” said Brad Butler, Happy Valley-Goose Bay’s Fire Chief during a CBC News interview. “To lose that, it is a big loss.”