Massive fire at Polson Pier recycling facility under control, but could take days to extinguish
Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Thursday, May 25, 2017 5:34AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 25, 2017 9:30PM EDT
A massive six-alarm blaze at a recycling facility on Polson Pier is now under control and crews have begun the “slow and methodical process” of sifting through the debris and putting out hot spots, which could take days, Fire Chief Matthew Pegg says.
The fire broke out at a GFL Environmental industrial building on Cherry Street near Commissioners Street around 1 a.m. and quickly spread, causing part of the building’s roof to collapse.
At one point, 42 fire trucks and in excess of 100 firefighters were on scene but by 8:30 a.m. the fire had been knocked down enough to allow all but a dozen or so trucks to clear the scene.
There were no serious injuries reported as a result of the fire, though two employees of the waste facility were assessed and treated by paramedics on scene.
“We have declared the fire under control which is a technical indication that the forward progress has stopped,” Pegg told CP24 on Thursday afternoon. “Our crews are now going through the methodical process of taking debris apart, fully suppressing the fire and working their way in. That process will take all of today and likely into the next couple of days.”
Crews fought fire defensively
By the time crews arrived on scene early Thursday morning the building was fully engulfed in flames and a decision was made to battle the fire defensively.
At one point, the blaze breached a fire wall separating the waste facility from an adjoining mattress business but crews were able to save most of the contents of that facility from being ignited.
Speaking with reporters earlier on Thursday, Pegg said that preventing the fire from engulfing the mattress facility was his top priority.
As a preventative step, the William Lyon Mackenzie fireboat was brought to the scene to spray water on the building. The boat also supplied the water for some hoses firefighters used to battle the blaze.
“A quantity of mattresses like that would burn with such a high heat release rate that it would accelerate the fire very quickly,” Pegg warned at the time.
Smoke seen as far north as Eglinton
During the height of the blaze, a heavy black plume of smoke drifted as far west as High Park and as far north as Eglinton Avenue, according to residents.
The heavy rain that began falling on the city early Thursday morning, however, helped to reduce the spread of the smoke and prevent the further spread of the fire, Pegg said.
“As miserable as it is and as hard as it is on our crews with the weather like this the rain is really helping to suppress all of the embers,” he said.
Cause remains unknown
GFL Environmental lists the Cherry Street facility as a solid waste transfer station on its website but Pegg said there is really no way to tell what type of waste is burning.
He said that members of the hazardous materials team are on scene as a result and are doing their best to monitor the area quality in the area.
The Ministry of Environment has also been notified, as per policy.
The cause of the fire remains unknown.
Division Chief Larry Cocco, who will lead the investigation, told reporters on Thursday morning that “an area of interest” in the recyclable portion of the facility has been identified.
Cocco said investigators will begin excavating that area and combing the rubble for evidence once the fire is fully extinguished. He added that the area in question has “extensive damage.”
“Right now it is unsafe for my investigators to enter so we are in a holding pattern,” he said.
Tory visits scene
Among those at the site of the fire early Thursday morning was Mayor John Tory.
Tory told reporters that he stopped by to thank firefighters personally.
“I just came to say thank you to our firefighters. There is 100 or more of them here. They have a very big fire in a very long building with a lot of combustible material in it but they seem to have it in hand,” he said.
Police have closed Cheery Street from Villiers to Commissioners Street as crews continue to battle the fire.