Toronto

Massive fire at Yonge and St. Clair contained, but not yet under control

Toronto fire officials say a massive fire that has shut down a major intersection in midtown Toronto is now contained, but not yet under control. The building is being demolished as firefighters work their way through the flames.

Firefighters expected to keep working through Wednesday morning

Firefighters are expected to continue working through Tuesday night. (Mark Bochsler/CBC)

A massive fire that has shut down a major intersection in midtown Toronto is now contained, but officials say firefighters are expected to continue working through the night — and possibly through Wednesday morning.

The building at 25 St. Clair Avenue W. is being demolished by heavy machinery as firefighters work to extinguish the flames.

The six-alarm fire has prompted the evacuation of nearby buildings. Roads are closed in the area and the nearby St. Clair subway station has been shut down. Buses and streetcars have been diverted.

Two firefighters received minor injuries while battling the fire at the Badminton and Racquet Club, near Yonge Street and St. Clair Avenue West. One firefighter slipped and fell, while another was taken to hospital with a back injury.

At one point, a fire captain inside the building issued a mayday call and was quickly rescued, according to Capt. David Eckerman of Toronto Fire Services. Paramedics assessed the captain at the scene and determined his injuries were minor. He was not taken to hospital.

"This has been a very stubborn fire, it's a very large fire, and a very complex fire scene," fire Chief Matthew Pegg told reporters during a 7 p.m. news conference.

Heavy excavating equipment has been brought to the scene of the fire. (Mark Bochsler/CBC)

Pegg earlier described the fire as "certainly one of the largest deployments of resources I have seen in Toronto in my time here, for sure."

Pegg said residents in the area are safe and everyone who was in the building has been accounted for.

WARNING: GRAPHIC LANGUAGE

About 120 firefighters were on the scene as of 8 p.m. The firefighters are using a heavy excavator to tear down the building, unleashing new flames as the structure is demolished.

"The excavator work is proving to be a very slow operation," said Pegg at a 9 p.m. news conference. Fire crews will "definitely" still be on scene Wednesday morning, he said.

An earlier evacuation order for nearby buildings will remain in place, said Pegg, and those buildings will need to be checked for air quality before residents can return. Local natural gas and hydro connections have been temporarily disabled.

The six-alarm fire persisted for hours, shutting down the intersection of Yonge Street and St. Clair Avenue. (Rob Krbavac/CBC)

Fire crews prevented the fire from spreading to surrounding buildings, said Pegg, although they have yet to assess heat and smoke damage to those structures.

An aerial view of firefighters responding to the blaze. (Nick Boisvert/CBC)

Toronto Mayor John Tory toured the scene late Tuesday afternoon.

Speaking afterward to media assembled nearby, Tory praised Toronto Fire Services, police and the TTC for what he described as an "extraordinary team effort."

The TTC provided temporary shelter buses for people displaced by the fire. Toronto's Office of Emergency Management has also set up a shelter at 55 St. Clair Avenue West. Displaced residents can go to the shelter for a hot meal, said Toronto Police Const. David Hopkinson.

Fire trucks line the streets near the massive fire. (Robert Krbavac/CBC)

"We anticipate that the subways will still remain closed throughout the evening, potentially into the morning, and we still don't have any service on the streetcar lines between St. Clair and St. Clair West Station," said Hopkinson.

Eckerman said firefighters received a call about the fire around 9:20 a.m. about the fire from people who were leaving the building.

At least three buildings — at 1 St. Clair Ave. W., 1 St. Clair Ave. E. and 21 St. Clair Ave. E. — have been evacuated, he said.

People who live and work in the area say the neighbourhood was thick with smoke.

"It's kind of chaotic, I've never seen anything like this before," said Sarah DeGrace, who works on the seventh floor of an office tower just west of the sports club.

Police have closed the intersection of Yonge Street and St. Clair due to a large fire. 0:36

The cause of the fire is not known, but it is believed to have started in a mechanical room.

St. Clair station closed

Traffic is not flowing through the area and the TTC has closed St. Clair station. Subway trains on Line 1 are bypassing the station in both northbound and southbound directions.

The TTC said it has diverted streetcars from the area and there is no 512 St. Clair shuttle bus between St. Clair and St. Clair West stations. Also, the 97 Yonge bus, 74 Mount Pleasant bus, and 88 South Leaside bus are diverting due to the fire. There is no bus service east of St. Clair West station.​

The six-alarm fire has prompted the evacuation of nearby buildings. (Dan Soper/Twitter)

Maurice Guindi, a Toronto resident who works in a government building at 25 St. Clair E., said he had a clear view of the fire from his office window. 

​Just after 9 a.m., he and his coworkers began to see smoke pouring from the racquet club, located about 200 metres away.

"I saw flames coming through the roof," he told CBC Toronto. "There was a lot of soot."

At its peak, over 100 firefighters responded to the fire. The giant mural on the side of the adjacent building is by British street artist and illustrator Phlegm. (Rob Krbavac/CBC)

With files from Tania Mehta, Nick Boisvert and Adrian Cheung

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