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Waterbirds could be affected by ‘potentially toxic substance’ caused by massive industrial fire in Toronto area: wildlife centre

A massive fire tore through an industrial building in Etobicoke, Ont. Friday and, according to the Toronto Wildlife Centre, the aftermath could affect local wildlife.

More than 100 firefighters were on scene at the height of the six-alarm fire at 35 Vulcan Street, near the intersection of Martin Grove and Belfield roads, at around 1:15 a.m. The building appears to belong to a chemical distributor.

Officials said Friday the fire was caused by an explosion that initially set off in tractor trailers adjacent to the building, but it is unclear what exploded.

Toronto Fire was primarily concerned with containing the fire due to the volume of combustibles on site, which included “thousands of litres of lubricants.” They added the incident is being treated as a “full hazardous materials response,” and the Ministry of Environment has been notified.

The Toronto Wildlife Centre (TWC) said in a Facebook post Saturday the runoff from extinguishing the fire has seeped into Mimico Creek by the Humber Bay.

“This potentially toxic substance, sitting about one-inch thick on top of the water, could have a serious impact on local waterbirds and other wildlife,” the post reads, adding the area of concern is between Highway 401 and Rathburn Road.

While TWC’s rescue team is on scene, the centre is urging those in the area to keep their eyes peeled for wildlife who may be covered in this substance by looking out for oily-looking feathers or birds who may be “preening excessively.”

“Also be on the lookout for groups of waterbirds like mallards and geese along the affected areas, and report it to our Wildlife Hotline,” the post reads.

If someone encounters wildlife in need in help, the centre says to only attempt to save them if it is safe to do so, and ensure gloves and other protection measures are worn. The Toronto Wildlife Centre also says it’s safe to rescue the animal by placing or tossing a blanket over the bird – including over its eyes – before nestling it into a well-ventilated box with an absorbent towel on the bottom.

CTV News Toronto didn’t immediately hear back from the Toronto Wildlife Centre before publication.

No injuries have been reported from the fire, according to officials. Police will start an investigation into what caused the fire once it has been completely extinguished, which Toronto Fire Deputy Chief Jim Jessop said Friday could take a “number of days.”

– With files from CTV News Toronto’s Katherine DeClerq and CP24’s Aisling Murphy 

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