Parliament Street fire could displace residents until Thanksgiving
Katherine DeClerq, CP24.com
Published Friday, August 31, 2018 4:26PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, September 1, 2018 7:13AM EDT
Some residents displaced by a highrise fire on Parliament Street may be able to return to their homes by Thanksgiving, but others may not be able to reenter the building for about four months, the property manager said.
At a news conference held Friday, the property manager for Wellesley Parliament Square Property Management said that the damage from the fire was primarily confined to the south tower of 650 Parliament Street. The custom components of the electrical distribution system need to be replaced, he said, and that process could take a minimum of 16 weeks.
“You can’t walk into a Walmart and pick this stuff up,” Doug Sartell told reporters. “You’ve got to get the specs, get the designs, get that out to the manufacturers, get them made, make sure all of the permit processes are expedited and I’ll say again, everyone involved in this and certainly from the Toronto fire side and the city building side, the electrical safety association, everybody has promised us an ability to effectively and quickly respond to all the submissions.”
There was some smoke damage in the north tower, but Sartell said that construction crews believe that residents should be able to return to their homes by Thanksgiving. At first, Sartell said the deadline was a soft target, but at the end of the news conference Sartell was told that a north side bus duct, which is used to help conduct electrical currents, is up and running.
“That should reduce the timeline for re-occupancy on the north side, to my understanding,” he said. “This is what happens in this industry. You get updates sometimes by the minute.”
Sartell said that he understands the urgency of the situation and that property management “accepts and understands that it is our responsibility” to help the families who have been displaced.
Management has set up a website and a helpline for displaced residents that is being used to connect those who need accommodations with available housing units. But Sartell is urging all tenants to explore as many of their own options before contacting management.
“Anything that you can do under your control, to secure a place, a safe place for your family to live, we implore you to do it. Leave no stone unturned. Go to your family. Go to your friends. Yes, there will be inconvenience, but there will be a roof over your head.”
One third of residents displaced by the fire will have to search for new accommodations as the hotel rooms they have been staying at have been booked out for the long weekend.
As of noon on Aug. 30, the City of Toronto confirmed there have been 155 offers of accommodations made by hotels or home-sharing companies.
“They have to understand that we are scared,” one tenant said. “That we don’t know where we are going -- and it’s my home. And I can’t go back to my home and it’s really scary and sad and none of us know what we are going to do. It’s hard. It’s a lot to take.”
Residents can seek shelter at the Regent Park and Wellesley Community Centres while building management, with the support of the City of Toronto, seeks out more temporary accommodations.
Sartell also said that management will terminate leases “on 60 seconds notice” if tenants wish to seek new permanent housing. Management has said that tenants would have their rent partially reimbursed for the last two weeks they have been displaced.
“We have cheques to give you reflecting that amount and they are here at the 650 Parliament response office at the back of 260 Wellesley Street East. We have a cheque for every resident. We promised you we would do it and we’ve done it,” Sartell said.
The 1,500 residents of 650 Parliament Street were evacuated on Aug. 21 after an electrical box in the basement caught fire. The cause of the fire was determined to be a major failure in the building’s electrical distribution system.
Residents have slowly been allowed back into the building, accompanied by security guards, to retrieve some of their possessions.
Earlier this week, Toronto Mayor John Tory made a public appeal for donations of clothing and school supplies to help the families displaced by the highrise fire get through the first week of school. As of noon on Aug. 30, the Red Cross has received about $74,000 in financial contributions and thousands of items have been donated to agencies within the St. James Town neighbourhood.
But tenants are worried that once September comes, Torontonians will forget about the displaced families.
“I just hope that this doesn’t go away and that it stays in the forefront of people’s thoughts, keeping these 1,500 people in mind,” one tenant said as she waited to gather her belongings from her apartment unit.
Wellesley Parliament Square Property Management will provide updates to residents through the website wpsq.ca, but residents can also call a 24-hour hotline at 647-760-7339.
Anyone who requires emergency social services such as accommodation should contact the Red Cross at 1-855-797-8875.
The public can donate to the Red Cross Parliament Street Highrise Fire Appeal fund here.