A startling plume of black smoke billowed across downtown Toronto during rush hour Thursday after a fire erupted on the roof of a condo building near the CN Tower.
Flames lapped the roof of 260 Queens Quay W. around 5 p.m. as residents rushed from the building and onlookers snapped photos of the massive black cloud.
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Firefighters had contained the three-alarm fire by 5:30 p.m. and residents were allowed back inside around 7 p.m.
Two people, including an elderly woman, suffered minor injuries from smoke inhalation. Many residents returning to their homes were grateful to find their pets safe.
The cause of the fire remains a mystery. "Our crews went up and found on the roof that there was a lot of patio, some Astroturf-type material and some planters burning," Toronto Fire Division Commander Bob O'Hallarn said. "There was a barbecue in the area and also some air-handling equipment. We're not sure how the fire started as yet and hopefully we'll be able to determine that."
About 60 firefighters reached the roof through the building's elevators. Officials considered closing the nearby Gardiner Expressway in case of falling debris, but decided the risk wasn't high enough to disrupt rush-hour traffic.
The Canadian Press reported the smoke could be seen as far away as St. Catharines.
The building at 260 Queen's Quay West has 360 suites on 31 floors and was built in 1986.
During the blaze many residents were on the sidewalk, fretting about their pets inside. Martin Piper sprinted from Church and Front streets after his friend told him his building was on fire. He didn't know if his dog Buttons and five-month-old kitten Shimay were okay.
Terry Lowe was just returning to his apartment on the 30th floor when he exited the elevator to the smell of smoke. The freelance photographer grabbed his gear and left. Luckily he had his dog Abbey with him already.