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Cigarette butt sparked fire at 200 Wellesley: fire marshal

A discarded cigarette butt sparked a six-alarm fire at 200 Wellesley St. E. last September that forced nearly 1,200 people out of their homes, the Ontario Fire Marshal said Tuesday.

The fire broke out at the 30-storey building on Sept. 24, 2010. Officials say a cigarette butt that landed on combustible materials stored on the balcony of unit 2424 was the cause of the massive fire in St. James Town.

Seventeen people were injured during the fire, including three firefighters and five children.

The tenants were forced out of their homes and had to sleep at community centres or make arrangements to stay with friends and relatives after the fire at the 711-unit building at Bleecker Street. The building was the country’s largest social housing project.

“Though we are fortunate no one died as a result, this fire caused significant property loss and hardship for everyone who lived in the building,” Ontario Fire Marshal Ted Wieclawek said in a statement.

A class-action lawsuit against the Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) seeking compensation for damages was filed last November.

The provincial fire marshal said in a release Tuesday that the “tremendous growth and spread of the fire” was due to an “excessive amount” of material stored on the balcony and inside of unit 2424.

Toronto Public Health had notified Greenwin Property Management about the hoarding issues in the building about two months before the fire, according to a report in the Toronto Star.

The problem was identified when inspectors entered the building to check for bedbugs.

Toronto Public Housing ended its contract with Greenwin after the fire and took control of the operation.

“Ontarians are urged to contact their local fire departments if they are aware of dwellings where an excessive amount of combustible materials are present that may pose a fire safety risk,” Wieclawek said.