Update#1: please see the comments for more links to images and videos of last night’s explosion.
Update #2: At 6PM, the fire was still going. A tragedy earlier this afternoon when a firefighter died battling this inferno.
Update #3: At about 8PM, the 401 has reopened, but Keele and Wilson are still closed, including the Keele off-ramps. Hopefully, things will start getting back to normal. Also, the police are allowing residents to return to their homes.
6PM, fire still blazing 14 hours later. Note the broken windows in the school in the foreground.
Update #4:Businesses along Wilson are cleaning up the broken glass and the street has reopened. Some local streets immediately to the east of the Sunrise site have remained closed. The National Post has a good set of photos from today, including broken headstones at Mount Sinai Cemetary and broken storefronts.
The news story on most peoples’ minds here in Toronto today is the massive Sunrise Propane explosion that rocked the Downsview area and felt right across Toronto and some of the 905 suburbs.
I live near the corner of Sunrise Propane depot on Murray Road was the property affected. (Live Search birds-eye image of site)
Other sites have better coverage and pictures of the night’s events, including BlogTO (which has been updating its post regularly), Torontoist and Urban Toronto, so the angle of this post is the local neighborhood the day after.
I am just outside the evacuation area, which was roughly bounded by Keele, Highway 401, Sheppard, and Dufferin, but live within the larger traffic no-go zone of Jane, Lawrence, Finch, and Bathurst. The 401 was shut down, and as I write, reports are in that Yorkdale Mall was being evacuated. The subway, closed north of Lawrence West for much of the day, has reopened. Also coincidentally, the new TTC website was fully launched, and listed the subway closures and some of the bus diversions (but the 41 Keele, also diverted, was not listed). Highway 401 is completely closed from the 400 to the 404 (though some traffic east of Bathurst has been allowed on eastbound). It’s a surreal sight, and the silence, which I am not used to, is eerie. This demonstrates how seriously emergency crews are treating this, still concerned about further explosions at the site. With the 401 closed (along with Wilson and Sheppard), traffic is bad along all the major alternative east-west routes.
We met neighbours, drawn out by curiosity, exchanging stories. Some of the other units in my building facing north or east had screens come off their doors, or even frames come out from the wall. With the 401 closed and local streets banned to traffic, and with all local businesses closed, there was little else to do after getting tired of watching the same repetitive items on the television. As with the TTC strike, some people still waited for buses in vain – and shocked to learn that they had to walk to Lawrence to get a bus out. The emergency crews were great. After conflicting media reports as to whether our building was in or outside the evacuation zone, we went out to see what was going on, and spoke to a police officer on barricade duty. We were assured that if an officer did not knock on our door, were were OK, at least for now.
Nearby, workers were busy boarding up shattered windows, though there are perhaps hundreds of these across the area. At Wilson and Dubray, a propane cylinder flew from the site, about 500 metres away, bouncing off the ground and then hitting a bus shelter, and everything is closed off. Police stopped curious pedestrians and cyclists from going any closer east than Dubray.
With traffic banned from a large area and the only TTC services being the shelter buses to York University, it has left many people, inside the containment area, but outside the evacuation area, stranded. As for the evacuatees, some of them (whom I saw) were still in pajamas, some with bags, some carrying cat carriers and boarding buses north. Hopefully, they can return by this evening once the fire is extinguished. Thankfully, residents escaped serious injuries, though storefronts on Wilson were damaged by shattered glass, likely the greatest cause of injury.
Thankfully, there are few reports of serious injuries, and nearby houses look intact, though it might take some time to access the total amount of the damage. Though there are reports that one person is still unaccounted for, and a firefighter on the scene was rushed to hospital and later died. This is a tragedy, particularly for we saw first-hand some of the professionalism of these responders.
The Toronto Star is reporting that Sunrise only moved in to the site five years ago, and local residents, evacuated first to the former CFB Downsview, then York University, were angry. some claim that they had no notice of the propane depot’s move, and claimed they had previous concerns about safety. Sunrise has a 24 hour location there, serving industrial customers as well as filling consumer propane tanks. It raises questions not only to local input in planning decisions, as well as the need for safety and zoning regulations for such a potentially hazardous product.