Toronto Fire Services say four people are dead and two others are in hospital after a three-alarm fire broke out at a home in Toronto’s east end.
“It is my unfortunate duty to inform you … we are confirming four deceased,” Acting Fire Chief Jim Jessop told reporters Friday morning. Their identities have not yet been released.
Jessop said two other people are in hospital — one in critical condition in hospital and the other in stable condition.
Emergency crews were called to Gainsborough Road, near Coxwell Avenue and Eastwood Road, at around 4:30 a.m. for a house fire. Six people were pulled from the home, Jessop said.
Several firefighters were also injured and required medical attention but their injuries are non-life-threatening, Jessop said. At one point, there was a mayday call for one of the firefighters but the firefighter was able to get out of the home on their own, officials said.
Jessop said one firefighter was caught in a flash, and another firefighter fell through the floor. A third firefighter was hospitalized after suffering heat injuries but has since been released from hospital, Jessop said.
Jessop said he has spoken to the firefighters and expect they will be back on duty in the coming weeks.
“This was a significant fire,” Jessop said. “The conditions that the women and men of Toronto Fire that entered that building, and are still going and conducting primary and secondary searches now, were extreme.”
“I want to thank our colleagues at Toronto Police and Toronto Paramedic Services for all of their assistance this morning,” Jessop said.
Jessop said the fire had spread to a neighbouring home and then to a third home. He said all the deceased victims were from one home.
As of 7:30 a.m., Jessop said crews were able to get the fire under control.
Jessop said the cold, frigid temperatures made it a difficult fire to fight due to water freezing and equipment failure.
“It’s awfully hard on our breathing apparatus they start freezing up,” Jessop said. “We have slips and falls obviously with the ice. We have issues with our equipment, certainly the water and the pumps over a long duration can start to freeze up.”
Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg, who is currently heading up the City’s COVID-19 pandemic response efforts, attended the scene Friday morning to speak with the media.
“This is one of the worst tragedies, by far, I’ve seen in my career,” Pegg said.
“These are hard days,” he continued. “To the family and friends and everybody impacted by this tragedy, I am so sorry.”
Fire investigators, the Office of the Fire Marshal and the coroner’s office will be conducting an investigation into what exactly happened and to determine origin and cause of the deadly blaze.
Jason Williams, an investigator with the Ontario fire marshal, said it would take days to figure out how the fatal fire started.
He added that the extreme cold would make it more difficult for him and his team to discern the fire’s origin.
“We’re going to be arranging for some heating and to actually board up the home to keep the temperature elevated to assist with the scene examination over the next several days,” said Williams.
He explained that keeping the site warm is necessary because if the water used to extinguish the fire freezes, it makes it more difficult for investigators to examine the building.
As of Jan. 18, Ontario had seen 14 fire-related deaths in 2021.
Last year, the province recorded 114 fire deaths, compared to an average of about 84 between 2009 and 2018, according to data from the fire marshal.
— With files from Liam Casey and John Chidley-Hill from The Canadian Press.