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Firefighters tackling hotspots, removing rubble at York Memorial C.I. one day later: Toronto fire

Investigators keeping eyes on structural instability, asbestos at York Memorial C.I.
WATCH ABOVE: Investigators from the Office of the Fire Marshal are trying to piece together what caused the destructive York Memorial Collegiate Institute fires. Shallima Maharaj reports.

Crews with Toronto fire have been working around the clock for more than 24 hours to get inside York Memorial Collegiate Institute after a massive six-alarm fire broke out at the west-end high school early Tuesday.

“We are still battling hotspots that we can’t reach from the exterior, so we’ve brought in heavy equipment to be able to access the interior of the building itself to get to those hotspots,” said Mike McCoy, deputy chief of operations with Toronto fire.

READ MORE: York Memorial C.I. roof collapses as crews battle 6-alarm fire

Crews brought in special heavy equipment late Tuesday to deal with parts of the school that are a danger to firefighters as they prepare to go inside of the school.

“The risk is to get inside with firefighters, you’re always worrying about what’s going to fall on them,” said McCoy. “So they’ll remove the remaining pieces of roof, there are some very heavy steel beams still there that are hanging precariously… any overhead hazard, any wall collapse potentials.”

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WATCH: Toronto fire official discusses extent of damage to high school after major fire

Toronto fire official discusses extent of damage to high school
Toronto fire official discusses extent of damage to high school

The school has been around for 90 years with a long-standing history, its name representing fallen young soldiers in the First World War. There are 11 steps at the main entrance of the high school that signify Remembrance Day’s 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

“A building like this, we hate to lose it.”

“I’m going to keep positive on that and work with the engineer. We plan on not doing any more demolition than we absolutely have to. Once the fire is out then I would suspect the engineers would have to come in and see if the building is still solid enough to rebuild or is it a loss at that point,” said McCoy.

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WATCH: Former mayor of York, Alan Tonks, introduced a GoFundMe created to collect donations to try to preserve historic elements at York Memorial C.I.

GoFundMe created to preserve historic items at York Memorial C.I. after fire
GoFundMe created to preserve historic items at York Memorial C.I. after fire

The former mayor of York, Alan Tonks and his son, Chris Tonks, who is the TDSB trustee for the area are longtime members of the neighbourhood. On Wednesday morning, they held a press conference to discuss funding for preserving any historical items that can be saved from the fire.

The Tonks family have established a foundation through a GoFundMe to look into protecting heritage components that were damaged or destroyed by the devastating fire.

“The history will never be destroyed, but the elements of that history [such as] various stain glass windows that depict the history of our country… the reminiscences in the testimonials that are in the memorial of the building, the architecture, even the steps… all of those things have to be protected,” said Alan, who served as mayor of York from 1982-1987.
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WATCH: Officials believe Toronto high school fire is ‘pretty much’ extinguished, district chief says

Officials believe Toronto high school fire is ‘pretty much’ extinguished, district chief says
Officials believe Toronto high school fire is ‘pretty much’ extinguished, district chief says

Firefighters were first called to the Trethewey Drive and Eglinton Avenue West-area school on Monday at around 2:15 p.m. for a fire that erupted in the auditorium. This first fire is being investigated as suspicious, said Toronto police.

The fire department was called to York Memorial C.I. again just before 3:30 a.m. on Tuesday as another fire had broken out inside the school for a second time. Fire officials said part of the ceiling and roof had collapsed, bricks had come loose and fallen. This six-alarm fire tore through the school.

Fire officials said the two blazes are “separate and distinct fires.”

The TDSB said classes at George Harvey C.I. and classes for students from York Memorial C.I. were cancelled until Monday.

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After conducting air quality tests overnight, Keelesdale J.P.S., Silverthorn C.S. and Charles E Webster P.S. remain open on Wednesday as normal, said the school board.