Four-alarm substation blaze causes major Toronto service disruption

By IAN ROBERTSON AND KIM BRADLEY, TORONTO SUN

An explosion and fire in a Toronto Hydro substation caused major power disruptions and snarled traffic in a widespread area of the city just after the supper hour yesterday. Firefighters said heavy black smoke that erupted around 7:20 p.m. made tackling the 2 1/2-hour, four-alarm blaze difficult in the building beside a massage parlour on Ossington Ave. and Dupont St.

A Toronto Ambulance bus was parked in a nearby grocery store lot in case anyone needed treatment for smoke inhalation, but a 14 Division Toronto Police officer said there were no reported injuries.

Six houses around the fire zone were evacuated and doused with water as a precaution. Extra crews were dispatched until the fire was declared under control at 9:43 p.m., but traffic ws not permitted back on Ossington until just before midnight.

Damage to electrical circuits caused a "major power disruption" in an area bounded by Keele St., east to Spadina Ave., between Bloor St. and Eglinton Ave., a Toronto Hydro Electrical System Ltd. spokesman said in a recorded phone message. About 4,000 homes were affected.

Traffic signals failed or malfunctioned at Vaughan Rd. and St. Clair Ave., St. Clair and Christie St., and at Oakwood Ave. and Davenport Rd., police said.

Aaron Benson, who lives on Dupont, said "the whole neighbourhood came out to watch" as the hydro building's roof erupted in flames. Benson estimated close to 1,000 people were on the streets watching.

VISIBLE IN MISSISSAUGA

"There's flames probably a good 50-feet high coming out of the roof and black smoke shooting about 100 feet up," he said.

Firefighters set up containment booms west of the building to stop the spread of oil leaking from the damaged transformers. They were given bottled water to drink due to the extreme heat.

Hydro, fire and environment ministry staff later entered the ruin to investigate the explosion's cause. Officials said the smoke was not toxic.

Two of the two-storey building's six transformers were damaged.

Smoke rising above the building could be seen as far away as Hwy. 10 in Mississauga.

Explosions and fire last Tuesday evening in a Hydro One transformer facility in Burlington caused electrical surges there, in Hamilton, and disrupted power in much of Niagara.