A woman is in life-threatening condition and three others have been injured after a five-alarm fire at a Toronto Community Housing (TCH) seniors’ apartment building in the city’s north end Thursday evening.
Emergency crews were called to the 14-storey, 389-unit apartment building on Bathurst Street, south of Steeles Avenue West, just before 8:25 p.m.
Officials said there were heavy flames on the east side of the building with smoke filling the building after crews arrived.
“Our crews are in for a long night. This is a significant fire,” Acting Fire Chief Jim Jessop told reporters Thursday night.
“In these types of fires, we are fighting that fire from the inside, so our firefighters are literally walking into a chimney right now … they’re getting beat up.”
Jessop said the injured woman had to be brought down a fire truck ladder from the fifth floor due to conditions in the unit so she could be treated by paramedics.
A spokesperson for Toronto Paramedics said the woman, who is believed to be in her 70s, was taken to a trauma centre in critical condition.
A second person was taken to hospital with serious injuries, fire officials said.
Two Toronto Fire Services personnel, a fire captain being treated for smoke inhalation and a firefighter, were taken to a hospital.
In an update released Friday afternoon, fire officials said the woman remained in hospital while everyone else was discharged.
A fifth person was assessed by paramedics, but they declined to go to a hospital.
Most residents of the building were encouraged to shelter in place except for approximately 30 people on the fifth floor who had to be evacuated. As of Friday evening, 17 of those people were allowed back in the building while the others were staying with friends and family or at hotels.
Jessop said the cause and origin of the fire, as well as the circumstances leading up to it, are under investigation.
TCH spokesperson Bruce Malloch said in a statement to Global News early Friday that fire alarms and other safety systems appeared to be working at the time.
He praised the response by firefighters and staff were sent to the building to support those who were displaced and affected by the fire.
“(Toronto Community Housing) will ensure that all tenants displaced by the fire are safely accommodated until they are able to return to their homes,” Bruce Malloch wrote in a statement early Friday.
“We are cooperating in full with the investigation being led by Toronto Fire Services.”
Meanwhile, Bathurst Street, south of Steeles Avenue West, was closed to traffic for several hours as the investigation continued.