Residents say propane facility had no place near houses

People whose lives were disrupted early Sunday when explosions at a north Toronto propane depot sent them fleeing from their homes are demanding to know why the city let Sunrise Propane set up shop in a residential area.

Acting deputy mayor suggests depot there before neighbourhood intensified

Joanne Crockett, who had to evacuate her home after the explosion, said area residents are angry that a propane facility was allowed in the neighbourhood. ((CBC))

People whose lives were disrupted early Sunday when explosions at a north Toronto propane depot sent them fleeing from their homes are demanding to know why the municipal government let Sunrise Propane set up shop in a residential area.

"A lot of people are pretty angry that the propane company was actually brought into the neighbourhood," Joanne Crockett told CBC News after rushing out of her home with her two dogs.

She was one of more than 12,000 people thought to be living within the evacuation zone.

Josie Miceli, who has lived in the area for 40 years, said community members weren't consulted or notified about the facility when it moved in at the end of her street about five years ago.

"We've been concerned since they were there that something like this would happen," said Miceli, who snatched her small Yorkshire terrier, Harley, before fleeing her home.

However, Shelley Carroll, Toronto's acting deputy mayor, suggested Sunday that the propane depot was in place before many of the homes were built.

"It appears to be a situation of the facility being there and the residential area growing around it," she told CBC News in an interview. "We will be studying it in the days to come.

"Certainly this is a highly charged and emotional time for residents. Right now, our chief concern is safety of [the] site... We want to make sure the residents are taken care of."

Reached later in the afternoon from Vancouver, where he was travelling, Mayor David Miller said the facility was allowed "under zoning that has been there for well over a decade."

Map showing the evacuation area in north Toronto, stretching from Dufferin Street to Keele Street and Sheppard Avenue to Wilson Avenue, just north of Highway 401. ((CBC))

The zoning predated North York's amalgamation into the City of Toronto, he added.

"We are reviewing that, but today is about making sure people are safe," he said.

A fire department official was also asked during a late-morning news conference whether he was concerned about such facilities being located close to homes.

"Well, we have to put them somewhere," division commander Bob O'Hallarn of Toronto Fire Services said.

"Those concerns always come up as to whether or not they should be in certain areas, but like I say, unless you want to put those facilities away and not build anything anywhere close to them, any residences, I don't know that you can do that."

Residents were awakened shortly before 4 a.m. ET Sunday by several thunderous explosions that sent orange fireballs into the sky.

Police said there were only minor injuries, and firefighters continued to battle fires at the depot for several hours.

Anyone worried about family or friends who live in the neighbourhood of the explosions can call 416-736-5185 for information. The number is not to be used to obtain information in general.

With files from the Canadian Press