Toronto

Over a week after the Gosford Blvd. fire, fate of displaced residents still unclear

In the same week Abu Edun was forced out of his apartment by a blaze that wreaked havoc on his North York building, he had a heart attack. 

Additional units deemed safe for re-entry Sunday for residents to gather belongings

Nine days after a 5-alarm fire tore through the apartment building at 235 Gosford Blvd., the 15-storey high rise remains visibly damaged. (Keith Burgess/CBC)

In the same week Abu Edun was forced out of his apartment by a blaze that wreaked havoc on his North York building, he had a heart attack. 

Unable to go back to his eight-floor unit to collect any belongs, Edun said he has only the clothes on his back. 

"It's been very stressful," his wife, Anne-Marie Edun, told CBC Toronto on Sunday, while choking back tears. "I feel lost." 

"We're alive, it's the most important thing," she said. 

Since her husband's heart attack and surgery that followed, Edun says the Canadian Red Cross has been paying for them to stay in a hotel. 

Abu Eden (right) suffered a heart attack last Sunday, 2 days after a 5-alarm blaze forced him and his wife, Anne Marie Edun, out of their apartment. He was discharged from hospital on Wednesday. (Keith Burgess/CBC)
 

But Abu Edun is now worried about the days ahead. 

"Where will I stay after this? How long will we stay there?"

He's not the only one with questions. 

On Friday, Nov. 15, the couple was among 700 residents forced out of their homes by a fire that ravaged the upper floors of the highrise, near Jane Street and Steeles Avenue West.

One person was found dead after the five-alarm blaze, which started in unit 808. Six others were injured. 

Although crews were eventually able to extinguish the fire, residents who watched it all happen say they saw explosions go off in many seventh- and eight-floor units, destroying all that was in them. 

Since then, no one has been able to move back into the building. 

Residents will soon have to move again 

Meanwhile, the Red Cross has been running an emergency reception centre, for the remainder of residents in need of a place to stay, in the Tait McKenzie Centre at York University, less than two kilometres from the apartment building. 

As of Saturday night, the organization said 34 people were still using the shelter as a temporary home. 

But emergency shelter and related support are only provided for 14 days after a major incident like this, according to city spokesperson Tammy Robbinson — after that it's up to the building's owner to arrange housing for the displaced occupants. 

With the help of the City of Toronto, the Canadian Red Cross has been running a temporary shelter at York University, offering a pet-friendly environment with meals, cots, blankets, washrooms, showers and secure storage of personal belongings. (Keith Burgess/CBC)
 

Robbinson says York University will only available to residents until Nov. 29, at which point the school needs the space back. 

That means those staying at the shelter have less than a week to go before they'll have to move again. 

Unknown when building will be restored 

The building's management company Ronkay Management Inc. says it is trying to coordinate living arrangements for its clients. 

"We are working on that," LuAnn Kay, the vice-president of client relations, told CBC Toronto on Sunday. 

"There are many circumstances being taken into consideration for the direct benefit of our clients and which consider each current living circumstance."

Select residents were allowed back into their units last week on the lower floors of the building, to retrieve essential personal belongings. 

On Sunday, Kay sent a bulletin to clients saying that 12 additional units, between floors one and six, had been deemed safe to enter. 

Due to the extent of the structural damage, Kay told residents that management can't determine when the building will be ready for full or partial re-occupancy. 

As for rent, residents were told that if they paid for November they would be eligible for a refund for the portion that covers Nov. 15 to Nov. 30. 

'They're doing the best that they can' 

Jones Karikari says he is still staying at the shelter with his son and wife. 

Despite being in an unexpected situation, Karikari said, "You can't blame anybody." 

"They are doing the best that they can... they can do what they can do," he told CBC Toronto Sunday. 

Karikari says they also live on the eighth floor and haven't been able to look for personal belongings — or assess the damage. 

Jones Karikari says while no one is to blame for what happened, he's sad he and his family haven't been able to move back home. (Keith Burgess/CBC)
  

But Karikari says he's not angry as he's been given three meals and a warm place to stay. 

"Everybody has come together, we share ideas and we talk to each other," he said. "I have new friends." 

Despite his optimism, Karikari said he's eager to be back at home with his loved ones. 

"The more I stay here, the more the memories are sad," he said. 

"The time you are losing, you're missing your own food... you don't have your full life." 

With files from Kelda Yuen