Fire officials worried about hoarders in highrises
Published Wednesday, October 6, 2010 9:11PM EDT
Toronto fire officials say they're worried about the prospect of other hoarders living in the city's highrise apartment buildings in the wake of the Wellesley Street fire.
"The government wants to protect your right to privacy in your own home," Deputy Fire Chief Frank Lame told CTV Toronto on Wednesday.
"But there's no solid law in the Fire Code that we can say, 'You must remove it down to this level,'" he said.
Fire marshalls can issue orders under the Fire Protection Act, but those take time because the resident can appeal them, Lame said.
Dr. Barbara Yaffe of Toronto Public Health said inspectors can only enter a unit with the resident's consent. "And in many cases, the hoarders don't want someone to come in," she said.
In the case of unit 2424, residents of 200 Wellesley St. E. said the resident there was a known hoarder.
"The door could not open completely. There was that much stuff behind it," said Haile Berhane, holding up his hands for emphasis.
The Toronto Star reported that Greenwin Property Management, which managed 200 Wellesley St. E., was told by public health officials to clean up the unit last summer.
According to the newspaper, Toronto Public Health inspectors visited the social housing building around July as part of the city’s bedbug pilot project. Inspectors found several instances of hoarding and mould.
Apartment 2424, the starting point of the Sept. 24 fire that displaced about 1,200 people, was identified as a unit of concern.
Toronto Public Health said there was never an order issued for that unit. They have issued 20 orders in the building for problems ranging from insect infestations to rotting food.
Toronto Fire Chief William Stewart said the apartment was filled with books and paper at the time of the fire. He called it one of the hottest fires his crews have ever fought, adding the problem was the extreme fuel loading.
Tenants in 280 of the building’s 720 units had returned home as of Tuesday night.
On Tuesday, Toronto Community Housing announced that it had assumed control of the apartment complex from Greenwin.
A statement released by the city agency said the change of management came on October 2.
Mitzie Hunter, chief administrative officer of Toronto Community Housing, said they would be taking a larger day-to-day role in the building operations.
Greenwin will continue to operate several other buildings in the area.
The company issued a statement Wednesday, saying, "Due to the ongoing investigation at 200 Wellesley, it would be inappropriate for Greenwin Property Management to comment at this time."
With a report from CTV Toronto’s John Musselman