A person has been found dead after a five-alarm fire ripped through a Toronto apartment building on Friday, leaving hundreds of residents displaced.
Fire crews said the victim, who hasn’t been identified, was located on an eighth-floor balcony shortly after 1 a.m. Saturday.
“When we were able to achieve an upper hand on the fire, that allowed us to be a little bit more systemic in the work that we were doing,” Toronto Fire Services Deputy Chief Tony Bavota told reporters at the scene Saturday morning.
“Some secondary searches were conducted … at which point a body was located on one of the balconies.”
The Office of the Fire Marshal (OFM) said the man died due to smoke inhalation.
Toronto Fire Services Chief Matthew Pegg said Saturday afternoon that crews received numerous calls for assistance from inside the building during the blaze.
However, Pegg said he does not believe firefighters were aware of anyone trapped inside the unit where the victim was later found.
The OFM said their investigators are not currently viewing the fire as suspicious.
Emergency crews were called to the 15-storey apartment building on Gosford Boulevard, west of Jane Street and south of Steeles Avenue West, just before 5:30 p.m. on Friday after a fire spread to several units across multiple floors.
Officials said it’s believed the fire began in a unit on the eighth floor.
Another person was transported from the scene with serious but non-life-threatening injuries. Five others were assessed by paramedics at the scene.
It took firefighters more than six hours to declare the blaze was extinguished, with 22 fire trucks and approximately 100 firefighters responding.
“(It was) a very demanding, very complex operation and one that involved an extraordinary number of our crews operating inside under some very, very challenging circumstances,” Pegg said.
Officials said investigators continue to probe what caused the blaze and the circumstances contributing to the spread of the fire.
Inspectors ordered that the power to the apartment building be shut off.
“The Electrical Safety Authority has determined that the power to the entire building must immediately be disconnected for safety reasons,” Pegg wrote in a post on Twitter early Saturday.
“The building must be evacuated.”
Toronto police said residents were asked to “seek temporary shelter with friends/family” as arrangements were being made to help those without accommodations.
Officials said 354 people live in the building. Many were initially told to shelter in place as others were evacuated. Several TTC buses were brought in to provide temporary shelter.
The Driftwood Community Centre opened for displaced residents Friday night with the assistance of the Canadian Red Cross.
As of Saturday afternoon, it remained unclear when residents would be allowed back into their units.
“(Inspectors) have to determine the safety of the building first to determine whether power can be turned back on and people can be allowed to go back into the building,” said Charles Jansen, the director of Toronto’s Office of Emergency Management.
He said residents who need important items like medication were being escorted in and out of the building.
Residents on the eighth floor of the building could expect to be out of their units for a “significant period of time,” the fire marshal said, adding that the most significant damage was contained between the seventh and ninth floors.
Meanwhile, Jansen said crews are looking to relocate displaced residents to gymnasiums and dorms at York University on Sunday to prevent significant disruption to programs at the community centre.