‘It was like a towering inferno’: Resident recalls 5-alarm Toronto apartment blaze

Global News spoke to one man who says he lives in the unit below were the fire is believed to have started. He grabbed what he could before he was able to escape.

A resident of a north-end Toronto apartment building that caught on fire describes the horrific scene that resulted in the death of the person who lived one floor above.

The five-alarm fire broke out on Friday just before 5:30 p.m. on Gosford Boulevard in north Toronto, west of Jane Street and south of Steeles Avenue West. It has since displaced 354 people.

“It was awful. It was like a towering inferno,” David Myers said of his experience.

“I looked out my window and I saw flames beckoning, billowing out of the apartment above me,” he said. “People were screaming.”

READ MORE: Person found dead after 5-alarm fire at Toronto apartment building, hundreds displaced

Flames had ripped through the building, eventually leaving one person dead.

Myers said he lives in the unit below where the body was discovered.

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After escaping with a little more than his jacket and a backpack, Myers described the harrowing scene that he saw unfolding in front of his eyes.

“He just came out and waved his hands up in the air and was like, ‘Help me, help me, help me’ and everyone was like, ‘Jump, jump, jump,'” Myers said.

He told Global News the building management laid out mattresses below, hoping the man would jump down, but it wasn’t enough.

Smoke inhalation ruled cause of death in fatal Toronto apartment fire
Smoke inhalation ruled cause of death in fatal Toronto apartment fire

“That was the last time we saw him alive.”

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The Office of the Fire Marshal said the man died due to smoke inhalation.

Myers said he’s staying with family for now — one of an estimated 354 people thought to be currently out of a home.

About 100 displaced residents who were housed at the Driftwood Community Centre will now move to an athletics facility at York University where they will spend the next few days or weeks until they can return home or find alternate accommodations.

READ MORE: Red Cross assist fire victims following tragic north Toronto blaze that left one person dead

“My hope is to get people back into their homes and into their lives as quickly as possible,” said Coun. Anthony Perruzza.

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Perruzza said his priority is to get the building safe enough for at least some residents to move back in. For now, he said the York University building will provide at least more of the comforts that residents are used to.

“The facility is bigger. It has more capacity. The showers are more complete,” he said.

Mayor John Tory said before residents can return, the building must be deemed safe.

“There was some damage done to the electrical system both by fire and water and so the authorities need to make sure that building is completely safe,” Tory said.

In the meantime, Myers said he’s waiting to hear more about the extent of the damage to his apartment as well as when he might be able to see it.

He said he’s thankful no one else died and that he considers himself fortunate to have survived.

“I’m alive,” he said. “I’ve just witnessed someone lose their life. You just need to count your blessings and it could have been worse.”