Queen West fire

The fire on Queen Street West near Bathurst is all over the news today. Five buildings are seriously damaged, Duke’s Cycle is gone and the building it occupied has collapsed. Nearby buildings are also in danger of collapse. I was on the scene for a little bit this morning where I heard numerous rumours flying around that the cause was due to a crack-den apartment, or a drug lab, or a garbage bin fire. Still no official cause has been given. Read: The Star, CBC, and Sun articles.

Our friends at Torontoist have a great series of photos from the scene that are worth checking out. Spacing photographer Miles Storey was also snapping photos.


  1. what a horrible tragedy!I hope that there is support for those who lost their home.If you are in the area please try to do whatever you can to help, it will be very much appreciated.

  2. This is so devistating. Not only did these peole loose their homes and businesses, the city lost a part of its social and physical infrastructure. I used to take my record player to Paul at National Sound when it was in need of repair. He was always so generous giving me a few deals here and there. I just found out that building had no insurance, they lost everything. This is just so sad.

  3. Surely this will not be diagnosed as arson. Nonetheless, suddenly the pocket-sized, urban Home Depot (or whatever) that was scheduled to go up at Queen and Portland could grow to the size of Gerrard Square. (Not the Home Depot at Gerrard Square, the whole mall.) I think it probably solves that pesky alley problem that the city used as a bargaining tool.

  4. yes, it’s a really unfortunate urban clearcut – and a lot of dislocation though nobody seems to have been hurt physically.
    And as much as I really like/argue for older buildings they can be problematic for fires, though of course a lot could be done, but usually isn’t as it would mean regulation, expense, and the owners would likely try to pass it on to the tenants, not do it, or try to put up a parking lot instead.
    thanks for sharing.

  5. I have four bags of clothing that I was going to take to a clothing swap tonight, but considering that people lost all of their possessions, I think would be better served as donations. Anyone know if there are donations being accepted and where?

  6. I just moved to Vancouver three weeks ago and lived in the apartment above Suspect Video. So hard to see my old home burn to the ground. My heart goes out to all of my friends who have lost EVERYTHING! This is a sad day :(.

  7. Donations would be greatly appreciated. My friends have been left without clothes, furniture and shelter. PLEASE HELP!!

  8. Ps. Joe maybe you should have some compassion for all that was lost. THAT WAS MY HOME!! Graffiti alley will always be there.

  9. It’s a bitter irony that these buildings had just been protected from demolition under the Heritage district designation.

    But even more ironic is that the heritage district idea is often criticized for only protecting the facades of buildings – “facadism”. I checked this afternoon, and the facades of several of these buildings are still standing, even though the interior is gutted. So the fire may have wreaked its own brand of “facadism”. But even if the facades could be saved, that would be something.

    It doesn’t make up for the loss of my favourite video store, though, or of other long-standing independent stores.

    Re. the Home Depot – another irony is that the little middle eastern take-out place and the house behind it that were restricting the Home Depot lot were not damaged, so it doesn’t make any difference to that development, even though it’s just a few meters further along the block.

  10. The facadism aspect is an interesting point. Although it’s the collective knowledge of the history of dukes, the idea of the family living and working above their store for 95 years. That’s the history that will be lost for everybody; you, me and espically the Duke family.

  11. The alley behind the block has not been effected, the fire didn’t jump it and the structures at the back of the block are relatively intact, I was just down there, some of the graffiti is scorched up but the alley won’t be effected in the long run.

    I was down there at 8:15 this morning as well and rumours were already spreading about a drug lab starting it. I think it’s going to take a while before they can investigate though, they need to make the structures safe before anyone can go in.

    It does seem certain that the fire started in National Sound. I got that from two different firemen.

  12. Re the facades: remember that they may not all be structurally sound–nevertheless, as with Bishop’s Block (or, arguably, as should’ve been the case with Walnut Hall), there’s nothing preventing resurrecting the best of them.

    Though I do have a certain fear of weak fauxness in the name of historic-district-mandated replacements “in character” (cf. the replacement for another recent Queen Street fire victim, W of Beverley btw/HMV + Aritzia). Indeed, were we to rally Will Alsop back to town, he’d probably be a splendid person to redefine what “replacement in character” is all about on this particular block…

  13. well my dad owned the national sound store. he is devistated…his store did not start the fire the “suspects” store did, just to let you all know. and it sucks that most stores on queen street dont have insurance. espially my dad who sells electronics.

  14. Jeez…I don’t know anything about running a business, but I can’t imagine that the costs associated with having your store and its inventory go up in flames is the kind of thing independent business owners can easily absorb. The amount of money that the business owners had sitting in their stores in the form of electronics, bikes and accessories, DVDs and collectibles (to name a few of the stores) blows my mind. If it’s not insured, how do you deal with the situation? Are these business owners now in stupid amounts of debt? Lexy, what’s your dad going to do?!

    As for the people that have lost their worldly possessions, I don’t know how one recovers from that. To be left with nothing but the clothes on your back…how horrific.

  15. Lexy, it’s Jodie. I am in shock and my heart is breaking for you, Sylvia and Paul. If you need me to help you with anything or do anything, please get in touch with me and I will be there in a flash.

    You have a strong family with only the best intentions in the world and I know that good things will eventually transpire.

    Call me if you need me.

  16. This media release just came in from the City:

    Media Advisory

    February 21, 2008

    Queen Street Fire Fund established to assist people affected by fire

    In response to the major fire on Queen Street yesterday, a trust fund has been established to collect donations to assist residents who have been affected by the fire. Donations can be made to the Queen Street Fire Fund at all Scotiabank locations across the city effective tomorrow.

    “There has been an outpouring of support to help people affected by the fire, from people in the neighbourhood and across the city,” said Councillor Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina). “I would like to offer my sincere thanks to everyone who has offered assistance to these residents in their time of need.”

    For further information, please contact:
    Councillor Adam Vaughan, 416-392-4044
    Ward 20 – Trinity Spadina

  17. I saw a women on the news that looked my size and I was hoping to donate some of my clothes to her.

    Do you know where I can do that. I called the fairmont and trinitybell woods community. They said no.

    Does anyone know where I can bring stuff to?

  18. WARNING: this post is making a general point and not looking to kick people who are down. I don’t want to have to make another one later saying “Please.”

    When you don’t get insurance your option is not to simply pocket the cash you would have paid out if a policy was offered – you are essentially “self-insuring” and should therefore be paying into a reserve fund against a dreaded day such as happened to those on QW. Insurance after all is nothing more than a collective reserve fund.

    On the other hand, this incident has caused major disruption and cost to the City, who should become more proactive in working with small business to assist them with retrofits to minimise fire risk, which will probably be cheaper than a six-alarm callout and major transit disruption. With the City’s help, perhaps some of these businesses can refit to the point where they become insurable again.

  19. It is devastating what has happened to the historical buildings along Queen West, especially National Sound and Duke Cycle. My family has lived three generations in the Queen and Bathurst area and remember the stores back in the 40s and 50s. Our hearts go out to you, as a piece of Queen has been lost forever. I keep thinking that this is some kind of nightmare and I am going to wake up and everything is going to be fine. My father shops at National Sound and has never had better service anywhere. Home Depot will never match the customer service Paul provides. I cannot erase those massive flames that I could see from my house, how could this have happened? Every cloud has a silver lining and that silver lining is the strong community that exists in this area. We hope to see the stores back on Queen St for future generations to enjoy. What is being done to help the businesses?

  20. It may be hard to realize for some but when you run your own business it can be amazing the sacrifices you make.I have no doubt that many businesses would forgo insurance than lay off a trusted employee.It is dificult to make those decisions and we as a city should give our hearts time and volunteer to help even in the smallest way.Remember these are our neighbors and friends.Many of these people had lost everything.Show your heart Toronto!

  21. I would like to make furniture, clothing, and other household items donations to the residents of Queen Street who lost their belonging in this devostating fire. I am moving out of the country and have a lot of things to donate.
    I know there is also an account for monetary donations at ScotiaBank, Red Cross and Sarvation Army are involved as well. I’d rather have those residents come to my residence and pick up whatever they are in need for. Is there a list of those people ? I want to avoid scams and dishonesty
    Thank you

  22. With so much of downtown being old buildings constructed to standards that don’t come anywhere near meeting current fire safety requirements, the city should consider creating a program to subsidize retrofitting its old building stock with sprinklers – the older the building, the higher the subsidy. This would address both fire safety and the cost of insurance. And more importantly, it would help protect communities.


  23. Press Release – Meeting announcements for Queen Street fire victims

    Toronto, February 22, 2008 – Councillor Adam Vaughan announced two meetings that will be held for property owners and residents that have been affected by the Queen Street fire.

    These are private meetings that are to provide information and access to assistance for residents, businesses, property owners and employees. The meetings will be closed to the press. Individuals planning to attend either meeting are asked to contact Councillor Vaughan’s office at 416-392-4044 or Councillor_Vaughan@toronto.ca.

    Meeting for Queen Street business & property owners

    Date: Tuesday, February 26, 2008
    Time: 12:30 p.m.
    Location: The Burroughes Building, First Floor, 639 Queen Street West

    Councillor Vaughan invites businesses and property owners affected by the fire to this meeting to discuss next steps and rebuilding. For the properties between 607 and 633 Queen St. W., information will be available from Toronto Buildings, Heritage, and Planning departments about rebuilding.

    Meeting for Queen and Richmond Street residents

    Date: Wednesday, February 27, 2008
    Time: 7:00 p.m.
    Location: Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Ave (one block north of Queen)

    Councillor Vaughan is hosting this meeting of residents on Queen Street and Richmond Street that have been affected by the fire, to help co-ordinate assistance efforts. Information will be available about accessing housing, clothing, furniture, financial assistance, insurance, and any other assistance you may need.

    For further information, please contact:
    Councillor Adam Vaughan, 416-392-4044, Councillor_Vaughan@toronto.ca

  24. scotia bank’s you can leave cash donations and the big place i saw was the shopper’s drug-mart on queen west across from all of it they are taking donations anything you can give well help and please do even if it is one shirt or a cd case anything helps my friends and people i do not know have been left with absolutly nothing and homeless 🙁 i am just glad people are ok

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