Fire that gutted historic racquet club not considered suspicious
Codi Wilson and Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Wednesday, February 15, 2017 5:48AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 15, 2017 8:39PM EST
Officials say that a six-alarm fire that gutted a historic racquet club in the city’s Deer Park neighbourhood and prompted the evacuation of a number of nearby buildings is not considered suspicious.
Several buildings were evacuated when the massive fire broke out on the second floor of The Badminton & Racquet Club of Toronto, located near Yonge Street and St. Clair Avenue, shortly after 9 a.m. Tuesday.
The fire raged for most of the day and it took fire crews more than 20 hours before they could formally declare the incident “under control” in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
In addition to evacuations, the fire also forced officials shut down roads and TTC service in the area.
Officials are hoping to open at least two lanes on St. Clair Avenue in time for rush hour
“I will tell you right now it is not suspicious,” Toronto Fire Deputy Chief Jim Jessop told reporters on Wednesday afternoon, noting that it could take weeks or months to determine the actual cause. “The Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal and Toronto fire investigators are continuing the preliminary stages of the investigation so it is way too early to suggest what the cause may be.”
Jessop said that crews continue to put out minor hot spots in the charred remains of the building, a process he estimated could take a “couple more hours” to complete.
Meanwhile, Jessop said that power has been restored at a condominium building at 1430 Yonge Street that was evacuated on Tuesday.
Jessop said the hope is that most residents will be able to return home tonight, though he conceded that some units that have been used by firefighters may not be ready for reoccupation until tomorrow.
Jessop said that firefighters had to breach the door of one condominium unit to gain access.
“We may have to continue to use a few of the units on the fourth and fifth floor to continue spraying water on the roof and some of the hot spots,” he said. “The crews have done an admirable job. There is limited water and small footprints. We have not disturbed anything and have been very, very careful in those units so as to not be disrespectful to anybody’s home.”
Large buildup of water
Water as deep as 12 feet has been reported in the basement of the building and Toronto Hydro along with Toronto Fire is working to pump the water out.
The exact number of people evacuated following the fire is also unclear and officials say there is still work to be done before some of the buildings adjacent to the racquet club can be reoccupied.
“We are dealing with a large quantity of water and some water infiltration into hydro vaults,” Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said earlier Wednesday morning. “We also need to have the natural gas supply restored. We have had to shut it off in the area.”
Pegg said crews will also need to undertake air quality testing before people can return to the buildings.
Toronto Fire is also currently ventilating the buildings impacted by the fire.
“Fortunately my colleagues at the Office of Emergency Management told me all but four of our residents last night were able to secure their own accommodations,” Pegg said.
“I know that the city through OEM did provide accommodations for I believe four people. The rest of our residents were able to stay with family and friends so that’s fantastic.”
An emergency centre set up at 55 St. Clair West was closed as of noon Wednesday, officials said.
Jessop said so far, there is nothing to suggest that any of the surrounding buildings sustained structural damage.
OFM will be investigating
The investigation into the fire is already underway, the fire chief said, and the Ontario Office of the Fire Marshal will be attending the scene.
Pegg confirmed that while two firefighters sustained minor injuries in the fire, no civilians were injured.
The fire chief was unable to provide a damage estimate.
"We won’t have any indication of dollar loss until such time as we get into the actual origin and cause investigation," Pegg added.
"Anything that’s left, there is an extraordinary amount of damage... I highly doubt there is going to be a lot of salvageable building left there."
A memo sent to members of the club by the chief operating officer of the facility said that it appears the fire originated in the main lounge in the southeast corner of the building but Pegg could not confirm that information Wednesday.
"At this point it would be speculative for me to guess that. Our investigation team along with OFM will do all of the interviews and determine what they can do from a scene examination," Pegg said.
A full safety assessment will have to be done before investigators are sent into the building.
"The devastation is enormous and whether or not the investigators from Toronto Fire or OFM will ever determine cause will be a challenge," Jessop said.
Both the fire chief and the deputy chief applauded crews for preventing the fire from spreading to neighbouring buildings.
TTC resumes regular operations in the area:
TTC service returned to normal in the neighbourhood this morning after transit staff shut down St. Clair Station and halted streetcar service in the area due to the fire.
TTC spokesperson Stuart Green confirmed the station reopened Wednesday morning and regular train service has resumed.
The 512 streetcar also resumed operations in the area this morning.
The intersection of Yonge and St. Clair had almost completely reopened to traffic by 7 p.m. Wednesday.