Homes, car doused with gas near suspicious blaze
Paul Johnston and Chris Kitching, cp24.com
Published Tuesday, September 25, 2012 6:27AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, September 25, 2012 6:04PM EDT
Police are asking residents in an east-end neighbourhood to check their properties following a suspicious blaze that destroyed one house and damaged three others early Tuesday morning.
The three-alarm fire began at a large house that was under construction on Byng Avenue, near Danforth and Pharmacy avenues, sometime before 6:10 a.m.
Two other homes, as well as a vehicle, were doused with gasoline, Toronto police Const. Tony Vella confirmed to CP24.
“The question right now, is what has happened,” Vella said. “We’re urging residents in the area to check your properties [and if] you note anything suspicious, give us a call.”
A person of interest was taken into custody Tuesday morning, as police and fire officials investigated the cause of the blaze.
The man has since been released, Vella said.
Neighbours, who suspect arson because they found traces of gasoline around the fire scene, sprayed water from garden hoses in an attempt to prevent the flames from spreading to their homes.
Some Byng Avenue residents believe the fire was deliberately set with gasoline as an accelerant.
“I just hope they catch whoever is responsible,” said Chris Campbell, who owns the vehicle doused with gasoline.
“We smelled gas everywhere,” said Keith, another man who lives in the area.
Keith told CP24 his mother saw someone running through their backyard before the fire was reported.
It’s not known if the person is connected to the blaze.
The house that was under construction was destroyed, while at least three others sustained damage.
Residents said the unfinished home’s electrical and natural gas utilities had not been connected yet.
Neighbouring homes evacuated
At least eight surrounding homes were evacuated as a precaution as firefighters battled the massive blaze, which was extinguished shortly after 7:10 a.m.
After nearby residents Hamneet and Stan were awakened by a knock at the door, they went outside to take a look at the inferno.
“We walked down and it was a very scary picture,” Hamneet said. “The whole place was in flames.”
Stan, who was in his pajamas, said the heat from the blaze was intense.
“By the time I came out it was so hot.”
More than 60 firefighters were sent to the scene.
No injuries were reported.
Toronto police and the Office of the Fire Marshal are investigating the cause of the blaze.
Two nearby schools, Oakridge Junior Public School and Samuel Hearne Middle School, were not affected by the fire, so classes will continue as scheduled Tuesday, said Ryan Bird, a spokesman for the Toronto District School Board.
With files from CP24's Cam Woolley
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