By: CJ Ramsaran

The record-breaking temperatures on Friday, September 24th soon became overshadowed by the ferocious 6 Alarm Blaze that engulfed a 24th floor apartment of a 30-storey highrise located at 200 Wellesley St. E. (near Bleeker St). 

The fire is reported to have begun around 5:00 pm Friday afternoon.  Thick black smoke & flames could be seen on the balcony by those looking on in shock and disbelief. 

200 Wellesley is a property that is incorporated in Toronto Community Housing ; the largest social-housing network and provider in Canada.  It is situated in the neighbourhood of St. James Town, and is one of 18 highrise apartments in the area.; most of which were built back in the late 1960’s.  

As the inferno continued, flying debris and sparks from the fire soon ignited smaller flames on adjacent balconies.

Initial reports indicated it was safe for residents to stay in their units, however, as fire-fighters continued to battle the blaze into the  night, a decision was made to evacuate all residents for their own safety. 

I made the trek down to 200 Wellesley St. on Sunday afternoon (September 26th) and took the opportunity to talk with a couple of the residents.  A lady reports that fire-fighters knocked on her door shortly after 9pm on Friday and advised that “due to safety concerns all residents were being asked to evacuate the building until further notice.”  Another resident, revisits the chain of events and advises that fire-fighters were at his door just after 10PM.  He had just enough time to grab his ID, although he forgot his health card; then he chuckles as he says “I made sure I took my jewellery with me; but in the frenzy I forgot to pick up my reading glasses, so now I can’t see”.

These are the stories of real people…. real lives; some 1200 Torontonians displaced by the sad reality of this fire. What you see on TV, and what you witness in person are two compltely different things.  I was saddened by the cramped and confined space of the community centre the residents were living in.  Yet despite it all, the residents seem to be taking everything in good stride; most concerned with the safety of pets that were left behind in their homes as they evactuated on Friday night.

Officials from the Ontario Fire Marshalls office have been combing through the building since the fire was contained and extinguished on Saturday morning.  They have reported that “this is the most intense apartment fire, they have ever seen”. 

An investigation to determine the cause of the fire is ongoing.  All-hands are on to assess the structural integrity and fire detections system of the highrise. 

As well, every effort is being made to get residents back into their building and units once the all-clear is given.  Until then, alternate living arrangements are being made for the residents of 200 Wellesley.

The City of Toronto in conjunction with Toronto Community Housing are coordinating donations from members of the public.  For details on how to donate, please click here.

Toronto, we have great sense of community pride and spirit.  As such, we ask that you do what you can to assist those whom have been impacted by this tragedy.