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Toronto highrise fire leaves 1,200 homeless

Last Updated: Saturday, September 25, 2010 | 3:21 PM ET

Officials are uncertain how long it would be before residents can return to a Toronto highrise after an intense fire forced some 1,200 people from the building Friday afternoon.

Officials are uncertain how long it will be before residents can return to a St. James Town building in Toronto after a fire forced some 1,200 people from the highrise Friday.

Officials are uncertain how long it will be before residents can return to a St. James Town building in Toronto after a fire forced some 1,200 people from the highrise Friday. (CBC)

The fire, which started on the 24th floor of the 30-storey building at 200 Wellesley St. E. near Bleecker Street, sent at least 14 people to hospital Friday night, including three children, one of them just a month old.

Three of the injuries were described as very serious.

Three firefighters were taken to hospital and as many as 10 were treated for heat exhaustion.

Shelter was being arranged for the tenants who were evacuated from the building; most spent the night at a nearby community centre.

But city officials were uncertain how long it would be before they could return home.

"This building will be shut down for a while even in the good news scenario, so we need to help people find other accommodations," Toronto Mayor David Miller, told reporters Saturday.

"Toronto Community Housing is working with the private sector in trying to ensure that all the people here have a place to live. That's our immediate goal."

Chief calls blaze 'ferocious'

Officials from the Ontario Fire Marshal's office were scouring the building Saturday for clues as to how the fire started. They have not determined a cause of the fire, but there have been reports that a large amount of combustible materials were found inside the 24th floor apartment.

"This is probably as ferocious an apartment fire as I've ever seen," Toronto Fire Chief Bill Stewart told reporters on Saturday.

The highrise, in the St. James Town neighbourhood, is part of Toronto Community Housing, Canada's largest social housing provider.

According to the Wellesley Institute, a non-profit think tank, St. James Town is one of Canada's most densely populated neighbourhoods, with 18 highrises, most built in the late 1960s.

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