Street looks like ‘war zone’ after six-alarm fire on Queen St. W.



Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press


Firefighters battle a six-alarm fire yesterday that gutted seven businesses and caused heavy water and smoke damage on Queen Street West between Portland and Bathurst streets. The area will be closed off until at least the end of the week. No injuries were reported.


« It does feel like someone died. »

A part of Toronto died yesterday in a massive blaze that tore through the heart of one of the city’s hippest districts.

When the sun finally cut through the smoke cloaking Queen Street West yesterday morning, the Duke family got a clear view of what was left of their family business.


The fire started at dawn. It ripped through almost a full city block of Queen Street West, between Portland and Bathurst streets, taking a big part of the Duke family’s spirit with it.

"It does feel like someone died," said Justine Duke, 32.

The six-alarm fire gutted seven businesses, caused heavy water and smoke damage to as many as eight more and brought the three-storey building housing Duke’s Cycle to the ground. The area will be closed off until at least the end of the week. No one was injured, but about 60 people lost either their job or their home in the fire.

Across the street from Duke’s remains, a small crowd of neighbourhood regulars and residents mournfully watched the smouldering rubble from the local hangout Shanghai Cowgirl. Like most businesses on the block, the café was closed and without power, but staff served tea to firefighters and onlookers seeking refuge.

Conversations were nostalgic and grim. "The whole street looks like a war zone," said one man, describing the scene to a friend on his cellphone. Outside, firefighters chipped ice off hoses and sprayed the burning wreckage, already frosted with icicles.

Many fear the block, a long-beloved area of the city’s avant-garde — although one dotted with its share of crime and grime, as well — will be impossible to rebuild, even though its characteristic style must be preserved under city regulations.

The area, a mix of low-level storefronts topped with apartments, was designated a heritage conservation area in the fall.