More than 1,500 residents have been displaced from their homes after a six-alarm fire tore through a highrise in the St. James Town area Tuesday afternoon.
While most have been able to stay with family and friends, Toronto Mayor John Tory said that the city needs at least 150 units of accommodations for the people displaced by the fire. He said it will be “some time” before residents are able to return home.
“They aren’t looking to be back in this building like tomorrow morning or in that proximity at all,” he said in a news conference on Wednesday. “We are going to make sure that for tonight everybody has a place to sleep. But our objective to have those people moved to more satisfactory accommodations by end of day tomorrow.”
The blaze has been extinguished and the area is clear of smoke, but Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said there was significant damage to the building.
"We are working on an all hands on deck model right now," Pegg said on Wednesday.
On the day of the fire, Pegg said there was significant damage to a number of systems within the building.
“There is no hydro whatsoever in the building; it’s been disconnected so of course there are no services.”
The City of Toronto and Red Cross Canada have opened up two reception centres for displaced residents at the Wellesley Community Centre and the Regent Park Community Centre.
“They are just saying it could take a month,” one resident said. “So, it’s been hell right now. I don’t know how to describe that.”
Another resident told CTV News Toronto she doesn’t know what to do or where to go.
“We have no home. We have nowhere to go. Probably go register at the community centre or ask my friends. I don’t know. I don’t have many friends.
One tenant said she waited at a community centre with her husband and two children until 3 a.m., hoping to get a hotel room.
“They said they’ve got only 20 hotel rooms, but guess where? Brampton or Guelph,” Dareen Fatimah told CTV News Toronto.
Chris Bye spent the night in his apartment, searching for his two cats, using a lighter to see.
“They hid and of course it’s pitch black and they don’t give you a flashlight,” he said.
Fire crews were called to the building on Parliament Street, near St. James Avenue, around 12:50 p.m. on Tuesday.
Firefighters arrived at the scene to find black smoke stemming from an electrical box in the basement. The smoke had started to move through the building.
The city said that four people were treated for minor injuries.
More than 100 firefighters were on scene fighting the fire.
Pegg said that it was “extremely demanding” for firefighters to walk up 15 flights of stairs while carrying 75 to 100 pounds of gear.
He said the eighth and 15th floors were most affected by the smoke.
Tory is urging anyone with free hotel accommodations or rental units to reach out to the city at .