A disturbing video depicting a man struggling on the balcony of a North York apartment unit as a five-alarm blaze consumed the area behind him is now in the hands of the Ontario Fire Marshall, Toronto’s fire chief says.
“Graphic sums it up,” Matthew Pegg told CP24 “It is graphic at the least. That video was provided to us in its entirety to us last night and that has now been handed off to the provincial fire investigators at the Office of the Fire Marshall.”
The roughly three-minute clip shows residents watching a man at the precise moment they realize the flames behind him are too strong, trapping him on an eighth floor balcony of an apartment on Gosford Boulevard on Friday night.
Six people were eventually extricated from the five-alarm building, one of whom was seriously injured.
The lifeless body of a man was later discovered inside a completely gutted unit several hours later. The Fire Marshal's Office said Monday that the man's death was due to smoke inhalation.
Pegg said the strength of the flames in the area where the body was discovered prevented them from entering to attempt a rescue.
““The unfortunate reality in this circumstance is the conditions that presented themselves in the suite that we saw simply prevented even our crews from being able to enter. We had no choice. They literally had to fight their way into that suite and suppress the fire before we could even get in.”
Ontario Fire Marshal investigator Rick Derstroff told CP24 he is working to comb through the “unit of origin,” excavating debris in search of evidence of an ignition source.
He said they had narrowed down the cause of the fire to something in the bedroom of the unit where the fire began.
Derstroff said there is no reason to believe the fire was suspicious in nature at this time.
He said “there’s no specific timeline” for when any of the roughly 700 residents of the building can return.
In the meantime, the Red Cross and York University have opened the Tait McKenzie Recreation facility on its main campus to house people displaced by the fire.
The Red Cross said Monday that 43 people and two dogs slept there overnight.
The Driftwood Community Centre was also opened to house tenants displaced by the fire.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said he was proud of the efforts of Toronto fire crews and wants to know how the fire started.
“All of these fires, especially one involving a fatality, are the subject of an immense investigation that has to take place as to how the fire came about and what happened with respect to the individual who tragically lost his life. But, I will say to you that our firefighters are very professional in how they go about their job.”