Nine hundred victims of fire supported by their City |
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It has been two and a half weeks since an explosion and fire at 2 Secord Avenue resulted in the evacuation of about 900 tenants from 293 occupied apartment units and 22 townhouses. The City co-ordinated an immediate response by a number of community agencies and City divisions to provide crucial support services for the displaced tenants, many of whom were forced to flee without wallets, identification or personal belongings.
The City set up an evacuation centre at Secord Public School on July 20, the day the fire occurred, where tenants were able to get the information and support they needed, including temporary shelter, meals and counselling. Toronto Fire Services, Toronto Police Service, Shelter, Support and Housing Administration, Toronto Emergency Medical Services, Social Services, Children’s Services, Toronto Transit Commission, Toronto Animal Services, and Toronto Public Health along with community partners - the Salvation Army, Canadian Red Cross and the Toronto Humane Society - provided a number of services for tenants who needed assistance in the wake of the fire. The City continues to work closely with the Office of the Fire Marshal, which is investigating the cause of the fire.
The following is a summary of some of the services that were provided to tenants over the past 19 days:
• 277 one-time emergency assistance cheques were issued in accordance with provincial legislation to help tenants purchase basic necessities, including food, hygiene products, and clothing
• 5,100 adult TTC tokens and 1,200 children’s tickets were distributed
• 39 individuals slept in the evacuation centre over the first six nights
• approximately 175 households were accommodated in eight hotels
• 5,641 meals were provided
• 3,831 food vouchers were distributed in $5 denominations
• 130 pets were rescued, including dogs, cats, turtles, gerbils and snakes, and a number were sheltered at the evacuation centre
• 39 medications for tenants were retrieved.
“This community can be extremely proud of how it has pulled together during this difficult time,” said local Councillor Janet Davis, Ward 31 Beaches-East York. “Community agencies and City divisions have been working together to provide tenants with the vital support they needed after being evacuated from their homes, and continue to offer services to tenants who still require assistance.”
Although the City is prepared to support residents in the event of an emergency, it is critical that homeowners and tenants ensure they take steps to ensure their safety and protect their property.
“What we can all learn from the experience of 2 Secord Avenue is how important it is to be prepared in case of a fire,” said Bill Hiscott, Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal. “It is important to ensure that your family has developed and practised an escape plan, and that you have insurance and understand what your policy covers.”
After the results of Toronto Public Health’s testing of air and soot samples confirmed it was safe for tenants to enter their apartments for a brief period of time, tenants were provided access to their apartments to retrieve essential items - six to seven days after the fire. Tenants were escorted by police officers and firefighters, and paramedics were on-hand to provide medical assistance. Everyone who requested access to their units was accommodated. The surrounding community was especially understanding and co-operative when two blocks needed to be closed off over a weekend to accommodate the cleaning and processing tents, and additional emergency personnel in the area.
An environmental cleaning company was contracted to clean the hallways and stairwells to reduce the soot before tenants entered the building. Toronto Public Health ordered all food in refrigerators and freezers to be thrown out due to health hazards caused by the extended power outage.
Since accessing their apartments more than a week ago to retrieve essential items, tenants have required less support. By Saturday, July 26 all tenants had been placed in alternate accommodations and no one was sleeping at the temporary shelter. As of the middle of last week, activity at the school had dropped significantly and meals were no longer being provided. By the end of day on Friday, the Salvation Army and the Canadian Red Cross were no longer on-site, and overnight staff coverage was no longer necessary. City staff continue to provide support services at Secord Community Centre, located next door to the school, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., and can also be reached by phone during these hours at 416-717-8285. Tenants can call 416-338-4766 after hours, between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m., for assistance.
The City also worked with the building owner, Preston Group, to distribute rent rebate cheques to tenants for 12 days in July, and the building owner also agreed not to deposit rent cheques for the month of August, until further notice. The City advocated on behalf of tenants to have billing suspended or credits issued for cable, internet and home phone services that were disrupted as a result of the fire.
The fire resulted in extensive damage to the apartment building’s electrical room and parking garage. The building itself is structurally safe, however, it will still be several weeks before the damage to the electrical room can be repaired. Water, electricity and safety systems must all be restored in order for tenants to move back in to the building. Toronto Hydro continues to work with the property owner and electricians on-site to permanently restore power. Shoring in the parking garage is complete and some vehicles have already been removed.
To further assist the tenants who were displaced by the fire, the City set up a bank account to accept monetary donations. Cheques should be made out to the City of Toronto, 2 Secord Avenue fire. The donation is tax deductible. Donors should include their names and addresses in order to receive a tax receipt. Cheques can be dropped off to City staff at Secord Community Centre, which is next to the school, or mailed to the Toronto Office of Partnerships, Metro Hall, First Floor, 55 John Street, Toronto ON M5V 3C6. Monetary donations are also being accepted at two local RBC Royal Bank branches: 2780 Danforth Avenue (Danforth Avenue and Dawes Road), and 2076 Danforth Avenue (Danforth Avenue and Woodbine Avenue).
For updates as more information becomes available, call Access Toronto at 416-338-0338 or visit the City’s website at http://www.toronto.ca.
Toronto is Canada’s largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people. It is the economic engine of Canada and one of the greenest and most creative cities in North America. In the past three years, Toronto has won numerous awards for quality, innovation and efficiency in delivering public services. Toronto’s government is dedicated to prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents.
Francine Antonio, Strategic Communications, 416-397-5318, firstname.lastname@example.org