March 4, 2019 10:36 pm

Neighbours open their doors to displaced residents of fatal Bathurst Street fire

WATCH: A fire that tore through two properties at Bathurst Street and Richmond Street West left a man dead and several people without a home, but others have opened their doors. Kamil Karamali reports.

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Natalie Donsky woke up to the sound of her fire alarm going off early Monday morning, followed shortly by her neighbour banging on her door, telling her to get out of her attic unit at 162 Bathurst St. immediately.

“I went down the front; it was so smoky, I couldn’t breath,” said Donsky.

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“We just watched all of our belongings burn down. It was crazy.”

Donsky said she was one of roughly a dozen people displaced by the fire that tore through two properties and damaged several others on Bathurst Street near Richmond Street West just before 5:30 a.m.

Fire crews said it took about four hours and dozens of firefighters to put out the five-alarm blaze.

It also took the life of 22-year-old William Secord Mattson, who neighbours said lived at the bottom floor of 160 Bathurst St., where the fire started. Neighbours told Global News that Mattson lived with his stepdad — who owned the neighbouring barbershop, which was also completely engulfed in flames by the early morning blaze.

A woman who identifies herself as Mattson’s aunt posted on Facebook that her nephew died of smoke inhalation. She adds that his stepfather — Adam Picard, who owns the Corrado’s Barber Shop next door — was sent to hospital after trying to save him.

“It’s sad. I really feel bad for the family, mostly because his mother lived above him, and imagine losing your home and your son,” said Donsky.

But what came from a heartbreaking event were several unexpected, heartwarming gestures.

READ MORE: Toronto Fire investigating blaze that decimated man’s downtown condo

Charlotte Langley is one of a handful of neighbours who opened her doors to the displaced residents immediately after the blaze.

“This is my family, this is my neighborhood, this is people that I love,” said Langley from her kitchen, where half a dozen strangers, who are now closer than ever, were eating donated pizza and having drinks at her packed dining table. “Why wouldn’t you open your door? This is what you do.”

Langley said she’s gotten offers from other neighbours to cook food for her new guests, while she’s also been trying to give them all the comforts of home.

READ MORE: 1 dead, another injured after 5-alarm blaze at Bathurst and Richmond streets

“I’m going to run some bubble baths, or if they need another glass of wine or a little hugging time, whatever they need. This is our neighbourhood.”

But Langley said she can only house so many — which is why the owner of several neighbouring properties, including the Football Factory pub, has welcomed other displaced tenants to find shelter under his roofs as well.

“We got seven (people) here,” said Costa Marlet, pointing at his tenant, Charlotte Langley’s home. “And three people above the Football Factory and the cycle shop. There’s five here and six here so everyone’s pulling together.”

Many people also came by the area today to mourn a business that had become a staple of the area.

Corrado’s Barber Shop had been around for decades.

The building’s owner, Corrado Accaputo, said he had owned the property for nearly 60 years and only retired seven years ago.

“Everything is broken. Look at the window; I have to replace everything,” said Accaputo, visibly shaken at the sight of his burned-out shop where he spent most of his life.

“I come here, my son — everybody comes here,” said longtime customer Ebrahim Shalehchi. “This is very sad. It’s shocking to hear.”

Meanwhile, residents who were displaced by the fire say they’re lucky to be alive and are now looking for alternative accommodations.
“I could’ve died, I could’ve inhaled the wrong thing at the wrong time and not woken up,” said Donsky. “We’re alive, though. We’re lucky.”
They add that none of the displaced renters had insurance and have started a GoFundMe page to help with some of the costs they’re now facing.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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