20/02/2008

Queen West 6 Alarm Blaze - My Eyewitness Story - Toronto

Holy Smokes, I think the super was banging on my door for about 5 mins at 5am trying to wake me up to get out of the building.

The six alarm blaze just took out pretty much my entire block - every building between Queen & Bathurst / Richmond & Portland with the exception of the Big Bop (thank god!!) and my super sweet hard loft building (and a couple others).
Apparently my building has no emergency lighting. Let me tell you, waking up alone in a big loft at 5am in the PITCH black to escape a raging inferno really sucks. Couldn't find my lighter (hmmm), barely tracked down my smokes & laptop (minus power cord) before the smell of real smoke had me cruising out the door at full limp. Without those precious items in hand, escape would have been frivolous!

I took the back stairs down to Richmond, pushed open the door to a small infantry of firefighters working overtime to hook up their hoses. Noticing me they started to scream “get out of there, someone get this guy out of here”. I limped over to Bathurst to see the rest of my building flooding the street. People in pajamas, house coats. People like me filled the street with their valuables in hand, dogs, cats, birds – every pet imaginable were ordered outside in the nearly minus twenty degrees - on direct evacuation order from the fire department.

The intersection was a mad house. Fire engines and pumpers screaming around the corner every couple minutes, as an ordinary street would be lined with parked cars, both Bathurst and Queen were flooded with cops, ems workers and crazy paparazzi. One officer apparently came all the way in from Scarborough to help out.

Walking to the north side of my building I took my first glimpse down the alley to see what the commotion was about. Although it was still almost pitch black outside a faint glow from the rising sun illuminated the enormous plume of smoke that seemed to ascend endlessly into the predawn sky. We walked up to Queen to see the rest of the fire ravaging the top floor of what looked to be the entire row of heritage shops. The flames ascended so high into the plume of smoke it even looked like the sky was on fire. Smoke billowing out of the buildings almost like an inverted river rapid – as if it was being forced out at high speed – possibly due to the amount of steam. It was truly shocking at how completely blanked the entire area was in smoke. For a couple minutes I couldn’t even see more than fifteen feet in front of me – definitely not good for the lungs.

The firefighters sprayed the blaze in vain with their water turning into snow in mid air as they tried to get things under control. It was truly a pity to see flames burning the top side of wood as icicles gathered beneath – natures little paradox. There were an unimaginable number of hoses, pumpers, engines and firefighters on the scene. Truly a spectacle.

For a few hours the property our building stood on was off limits to the public. We were rushed across the street and all waited in the frigid wind before a TTC bus showed up to provide some temporary warmth. At that point, the fire reaching its climax, I had absolutely no interest in being out in the cold so I jumped in a taxi and went to visit my parents for a good old dawn social - but mostly to follow the rest of the story from the warmth and comfort of a luxury condo.

All in all, apparently 14 addresses were destroyed by the fire. One building has totally collapsed sending debris into Queen Street (see pics), a couple more look like a strong wind could push them over. It’s a real shame – and it’s been rumored all day that some crack head drug operation may have started the blaze. Everyone knows everyone down here so it will be interesting to find out what really happened.

It’s also nice to know that the city is here for us. As it was just after 5am I think it may be a bit much to ask for temporary shelter to be provided immediately, but at minus twenty, the fire fighters may want to reconsider how prematurely buildings are evacuated with respect to having pets and small kids out in the cold. Having said that they did have an endless stock of freezing cold water – exactly what I’m looking for in the middle of a freezing cold fire. In hindsight I think all the right decisions were made and I have to thank the fire fighters for saving our building from the fire. They are truly amazing people and deserve a ton of credit for not letting this spread even further than it already did. Great Work!!

I’m back home again, exhausted from the night of the fire. I didn’t light it but I tried to blah blah … Our building is OK but my place really smells like smoke. Thanks to everyone who sent me concerned messages. Everything is OK and back to normal.

My girlfriend took these pictures of the aftermath of the fire (http://picasaweb.google.com/thaconlan/QueenStreetFireFeb2008). My neighbor took a bunch of pictures of the early morning hours when the fire was raging out of control - I will post as soon as possible.

Now if only my ankle would get to 100%. Stupid cube vans. I bet this fire was started by a white cube van – think about it.

Over And Out

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Crazy shit, man! Glad you made it out of there alive, espcially in your gimpy state ;-)

- Lole