Feb. 20, 2008, Toronto - A massive fire that erupted near a busy Toronto intersection early Wednesday morning gutted several buildings and left the road slick with ice as dozens of firefighters battled for hours on a frigid day to extinguish the six-alarm blaze.
February 20, 2008 By The Canadian Press
Orange and yellow flames and sparks lit the sky as fire ripped through a three-storey building just after 5 a.m. and rapidly spread to adjacent buildings lining Queen Street West, a popular shopping district close to the city's downtown core that's also a busy streetcar route.
At its height, 150 firefighters and 30 fire trucks were on the scene battling the flames amid a wind chill of -20 C, local TV station CP24 reported.
Residents in apartments above the street-level stores were able to escape, and fire officials said no serious injuries were reported.
“There was at least one person who was brought out through a window,'' said division commander Bob O'Hallarn.
One of the buildings partially collapsed, sending blackened rubble tumbling into the street.
The fire spewed smoke over much of the downtown area and caused rush-hour pedestrians to cough as they headed to work. Smoke was also sucked into office building ventilation systems and subway stations.
Firefighters had most of the flames extinguished by early Wednesday afternoon, but smoke continued to pour from the smouldering buildings.
Water from the fire hoses quickly pooled and froze on the road, rendering the usually bustling thoroughfare impassable. Police cordoned off the immediate area and diverted traffic and streetcars away from the site.
The affected stretch of the street is an eclectic mix of restaurants, bars, clothing boutiques, junk stores and shops selling marijuana paraphernalia.
O'Hallarn said some residents living south of the scene were forced from their homes.
“We have people on the street behind here, whose houses back onto this, evacuated,'' he said. “We're just worried about smoke drifting in there and causing respiratory difficulties.''
O'Hallarn said it was too early to say what caused the fire, and the investigation won't begin until firefighters begin examining the debris.
“We may not know for a long time how the fire started.''
Mark Newman, co-owner of Duke's Cycle, which was destroyed in the blaze, said his store lost $1 million in inventory.
“It's devastating,'' Newman told CP24. He also vowed that the business, founded in 1914, would reopen elsewhere.
Some residents who lost their homes in the blaze were offered food and shelter at a nearby community centre.
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