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Massive recycling plant fire sends smoke plume over Toronto

Last Updated May 25, 2017 at 5:14 pm EDT

Toronto’s fire chief says firefighters could be on the scene of a blaze at a Cherry Street recycling facility near the city’s waterfront for a couple of days.

The fire began at the GFL Solid Waste Transfer Station near Polson Pier around 1 a.m. on Thursday.

“The material here is mixed. It’s really hard, if not impossible, for us to know exactly what the contents are,” Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said.

“There’s also a used mattress storage facility [nearby].”

Toronto Fire division chief Larry Cocco says the roof of the plant collapsed and there was extensive damage throughout the facility.

Employees were inside the building at the time, but everyone got out. Two employees were assessed at the scene and released, and no injuries have been reported, Pegg said.

Pegg says heavy equipment has been brought in to remove parts of the building so firefighters can access the areas that are still burning.

“The content is far too heavy for our firefighters to move manually – we need forklifts and backhoes and such to pull it apart safely,” he said.

Pegg said it was hard to estimate how long it would take to extinguish the fire.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re here into tomorrow and even the next couple of days,” he said. “It really depends how this process of taking it apart and fully suppressing it goes.”

People across the downtown reported seeing and smelling smoke, and seeing ashes, several kilometres west of the fire, all the way to Lake Shore Boulevard and Windermere Avenue.

Pegg said people reported smelling smoke as far away as Etobicoke.

“We’re not aware of any significant hazard in the smoke plume,” Pegg said.

Toronto Mayor John Tory was at the scene Thursday morning and echoed Pegg’s comments about the smoke.

“People don’t need to be worried about that,” Tory told reporters. “There is no good smoke, but this is smoke people just smell. It’s widespread across the city, but it doesn’t, as best anyone knows at the moment, pose any danger.”

Staff with the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change are at the scene.

“Ministry staff will be working to address and minimize the fire’s environmental impacts to the air and nearby water as soon as feasibly possible,” a spokesman said.

The cause of the fire is not yet known.