‘Catastrophic electrical failure’ led to 650 Parliament St. fire, more details expected soon

It’s been exactly a year since 1,500 people were forced out of their apartments at 650 Parliament St. and we will soon learn what caused the electrical fire.

The Ontario fire marshal could release the report as early as this week, although what day it will come out isn’t yet clear.

 Although fire investigator Chris ter Stege isn’t yet able to go into detail about the exact cause, the fire was the “result of a catastrophic electrical failure,” he said.

“The best way I can explain the [resulting fire that spread through the building] in layman terms, is every wire that was in the apartment building heated up just like the wires you would see in a toaster. Because the wires heated up they allowed anything that was combustible to ignite,” said ter Stege.

Report could spark changes

For Mark Slapinski, who lived on the 21st floor and has since had to move seven times, knowing the source of the fire will bring some closure.

“I think most people are wondering what happened that day. Not only that, but I think it can also help prevent future disasters … So, hopefully these building owners start fixing their systems sooner,” Slapinski said.

On Aug. 21, 2018, a six-alarm fire tore through the building, badly damaging its electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems.

Since then, the spokesperson for the building’s property management company, Wellesley Parliament Square (WPS), says $50-$60 million has been spent on fixing the high rise.

“We have essentially had to rebuild a 22-storey tower from the inside out. There has been more than 230,000 human hours spent on the repair,” Danny Roth said.

Residents hope to be home by November

Roth hasn’t yet seen the fire marshal’s report and says the company will need time to review it before commenting.

As it stands now, about three quarters of the renovations have been completed and residents will likely be able to move back in November, the company says.

For Slapinski, that date can come soon enough. Even though building management did provide some help, he’s spent thousands on relocation fees. A class-action lawsuit against WPS was launched by law firms Strosberg Sasso Sutts LLP and Charney Lawyers PC on behalf of all the building’s tenants

The electrical fire isn’t the only problem to strike WPS; in January, a burst pipe at another building the company manages left 1,000 residents without power and water for three days.

The city stepped in after that and ordered inspections for many WPS buildings.

“They’ve now been deemed safe again,” said Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam, who represents the ward where the buildings are located.

“The City of Toronto has now created a licensing regime called Rent Safe T.O., Wong-Tam said.

“We are now asking property owners — those who own buildings that have more than 10 units — to do regular maintenance and keep receipt of proof on all their safety systems, which includes electrical,” she said.

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