UPDATE: Electrical fire put out at Gerrard and Mutual streets

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By Alexandra Holyk and Jes Mason

A three-alarm electrical fire located near Gerrard and Mutual streets on Monday evening has been put out, according to Toronto police constable Laura Brabant.

The fire broke out on the second floor of the Neill-Wycik Cooperative College. The hostel is known to be an off-campus cooperative residence building for many Ryerson students. Over 750 post-secondary students live in the building, according to their website.

Police and fire crews were on site at around 10:50 p.m.  Toronto Fire District Chief Stephan Powell said some residents were instructed to shelter in place while others had to evacuate. No injuries have been reported yet.

Brabant added that although the fire has been put out, heavy smoke remains in the building. 

The cause of the fire is still unknown.

TTC shelter busses were also on site to provide shelter for evacuated residents.

A TTC bus operator who preferred to remain anonymous said Toronto police will often request shelter busses from the TTC in emergency situations like this. “We just provide a warm shelter…for people to collect themselves, to maybe comfort one another, to be somewhere safe.”

He added that the shelter busses aren’t supposed to be accommodations for the night. “People just need to feel comforted.”

Just before 1 a.m. on Tuesday, Neill-Wycik wrote in the residents’ private Facebook group that it was likely that evacuated residents would be allowed to return to their apartments to shelter in place, “but this will likely be much later in the evening.” According to the post, they were awaiting a safety assessment from the Electrical Safety Authority. They recommended that residents stay elsewhere.

Gaurang Kotasthane, an aerospace engineering student, lives on the fourteenth floor of Neill-Wycik. He said he was told that he’d have to find his own accommodations. “I’m not sure where I’m going to stay [tonight]…there’s nothing I can do about it,” he said.

Just after 3 a.m., Neill-Wycik posted again on Facebook, saying residents could now enter the building but wouldn’t have access to electricity or running water.

Alex Liu, a recent graduate of the University of Waterloo, said he heard the fire alarm around 11 p.m. “I didn’t think anything of it but then the power turned off, so I thought that was weird.” Liu, who lives on the tenth floor of Neill-Wycik, said that he looked into the hallway and could smell smoke, so he decided to evacuate. 

In a tweet Tuesday morning, Ryerson said that students impacted by the fire are encouraged to contact Student Care for support. “We are in the process of reaching out to impacted students today.”

The Red Cross is also providing support to members and assisting with “alternative accommodation, food and other essentials” according to the Neill-Wycik Facebook group.

This story has been updated with comment from people at the scene of the fire and from Ryerson.

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