Six-Alarm Fire Snarls St. Jamestown Highrise
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Six-Alarm Fire Snarls St. Jamestown Highrise


Photo by J Deschamps.

After raging for more than two hours, an intense six-alarm fire in a St. Jamestown highrise, at 200 Wellesley Street East, finally fizzled out—only to flare back up again, after the sun had set, almost two hours later. By the end of the night, more than a thousand residents were evacuated, and stranded, temporarily without homes.
Torontoist’s live updates, in reverse-chronological order, are below.

12:13 AM: The city’s attention turns now from the fire to the thousand-plus residents of the building now displaced by it. So far, social media’s playing a big part in mobilizing those who want to help. Some Twitterers are using the hashtag #wellesleyfire to coordinate donations and assistance for residents; for accurate information, we especially recommend following Justin Kozuch and Chris Tindal. The Wellesley Community Centre, at the corner of Sherbourne and Wellesley, is accepting donations and help—according to Tindal, there’s an emergency meeting at noon on Saturday, outside of the No Frills at 555 Sherbourne Street.
(Notable, as well: as of this time, two TTC bus routes—the 75 Sherbourne and 94 Wellesley routes—are diverting around the area.)
9:08 PM: “The flames started shooting out the window again about thirty minutes ago,” J Deschamps tells us—the window beside the balcony that was ablaze earlier:

Photo by J Deschamps.

Firefighters are still on the scene, and, Deschamps says, “we keep hearing more and more sirens. It sounds like more firetrucks are being called in”—and it looks like they might be facing off against the flames for a while yet.
For now, short of any major developments, we’re wrapping our live coverage for the night now, but we’ll have the latest news in Saturday morning’s Newsstand.
8:50 PM: Though smoke and any exterior signs of a fire vanished earlier, that wasn’t the last of either—the fire’s flared back up again.
8:07 PM: Here’s as best as we’ve been able to glean, from our own reporting, from trusted sources on the ground, and from other media outlets: the flames that jutted from the building were from a unit on the twenty-fourth floor, but how the fire started isn’t entirely clear yet. It didn’t take long after fire fighters were first dispatched at 5:03 p.m. for smoke to fill many other floors throughout the building, forcing many residents who tried to leave back into their homes—and in some cases onto their balconies. Falling debris, and the wind, made the fire tougher to contain.
Reports of injuries vary, though the latest word from Fire Chief William A. Stewart is that “six to seven civilians” were taken to hospital, as well as one firefighter who “sustained a possible concussion” (but “nothing of a serious nature”). Stewart said he was “not…aware of” anyone unaccounted for. The fire was especially intense, explained Stewart, because the unit where the fire originated contained some “combustible material”; when a reporter asked if there was an unusual amount of material in the unit, Stewart said yes, and didn’t elaborate.
Right now, the Star, Post, and Globe are leading the way for coverage; CP24 has video from earlier, though their accompanying article online is, as of right now, two hours outdated.
7:55 PM: Torontoist photographer Remi Carreiro was on the ground with residents at about 7 p.m. He sends these photos:

Photos by Remi Carreiro/Torontoist.

7:38 PM: And here’s how the building looks now:

Photo by J Deschamps.

The Post reports that, according to Toronto Fire Chief William Stewart, “four people have been taken to hospital with undetermined injuries, while ten firefighters were being treated on scene for heat exhaustion.”
7:25 PM: The fire is now, as best as we’re able to tell, out—and it’s thanks in no small part to the firefighters who arrived in droves on the scene (and got applause when the last flames died down). Here are just a few of them earlier, trying to find an angle to take on the fire from other balconies, and the roof of the building:

Photos by J Deschamps.

J Deschamps, who has been sending us updates and photos throughout the evening, also snapped a resident who was trying to help by throwing cups of water towards the blaze a few storeys up from his balcony earlier:

Photo by J Deschamps.

7:09 PM: Justin Kozuch, who’s been tweeting throught the fire, now reports that the fire is out. (Here’s his photo taken just after 7 p.m. of smoke—but no flames—billowing from the building.) We’re waiting to confirm with others on the ground and in the area.
6:56 PM: The alarm level is still at six—and there are reports of people not being able to evacuate, because of smoke. (Here’s one from Chris Tindal, a former Torontoist contributor and current council candidate in Toronto Centre; here’s another from Justin Kozuch, who says that the people on their balconies might be trapped there.)
6:46 PM: This sequence of photos was shot before the building was being evacuated—you can see people on their balconies in the building watching the fire, including one man only two storeys below:

Photo by J Deschamps.

The photos were taken by J Deschamps, from Homewood Avenue. “I was just sitting at my desk when something out the widow caught my eye,” Deschamps explains. “I thought someone was waving a flag but when my eyes adjusted I realized that the building was on fire! The wind is making it very hard to put out and I can see smoke coming out the top of the building! I think it’s shooting out the roof vents.”
6:32 PM: The Star reports that the fire started on the twenty-fourth floor, but that “the entire 22nd floor is filled with fire.” The building is being evacuated—and, according to the paper, some firefighters may have been injured.
6:10 PM: A massive fire in an upper-floor apartment in a St. Jamestown highrise—one for which firefighters were dispatched just after 5 p.m. on Friday afternoon—is now a six-alarm blaze. According to CTV, the fire is at 200 Wellesley Street East, and no injures are reported; according to Torontoist’s Marc Lostracco, the intensity of the fire is “insane”—made worse, apparently, by today’s winds. There are “massive flames curling up the building,” he reports.
From our readers, a few photos:

Photo by Justin Kozuch.

The view from Huntley Street. Photo by Jon Hoult.

Are you on the ground? Email [email protected].