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Saskatoon Grain Elevator Demolished As Crowds Watch

06/20/2015 08:16 EDT | Updated 06/21/2016 05:59 EDT
SASKATOON - The earth rumbled under the feet of a large crowd that gathered to watch the demolition of an elevator at a Saskatoon grain mill.

The dismantling of the Parrish and Heimbecker mill began in March, and on Saturday crews detonated explosives that brought the towering elevator crashing to the ground.

The concrete structure stood since 1910, but closed last year when the company moved operations outside the city.

There was a 200-metre exclusion zone around the building that even included a flight path for Saskatoon's airport.

Tristan Rakowski, the blaster in charge, says the detonation went perfectly and the 56-metre-high structure rolled onto its side.

Rakowski says elevators must be rolled because their internal structure is too rigid to allow them to collapse inward like other buildings.

"It's not homogeneous in terms of the construction where every floor is just post and beam. Here with the silos — the bin structure inside — it's very rigid," said Rakowski, whose company, Rakowski Cartage and Wrecking, handled the demolition.

"We basically have to chop it down like a tree."

Firefighters blocked off storm drains to prevent any potential runoff from entering them, and then stood by just in case something went wrong.

Many people gathered to watch, despite the demolition taking place at 6 a.m.

"I would say there was probably about a thousand people," said Brandon Phillips, who said he could feel the ground shake. "People were cheering and clapping."

Mike Rotchell, a power engineer at St. Paul's Hospital, stood on the hospital's rooftop with about a dozen other people.

Rotchell said the group had all played in a golf tournament together the day before, and decided that watching the elevator fall was something none of them wanted to miss.

"It's a different landscape now," said Rotchell about the change on the city's skyline.

Still, he's not sentimental about it.

"It was getting a bit old. Time for a change," he said.

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