One of two people pulled from a burning building at Bathurst and Richmond streets this morning has died of their injuries in hospital.

News of the fatality came as Toronto Fire crews continued their efforts to contain the spread of the difficult five-alarm fire that broke out early Monday.

Crews were called to 160 Bathurst Street, south of Richmond Street West, just before 5:30 a.m.

Firefighters arrived to find thick smoke and visible flames.

Two people were rescued from the basement by firefighters and then rushed to hospital by paramedics. One of them, a man, was considered to be in critical condition while the other was in serious condition.

The man did not survive.

Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said the family of the victim has been notified.

Officials believe the blaze spread through the roof to neighbouring buildings.

“Crews are having a tough time. This is a difficult fire,” Pegg told CP24 at the scene earlier in the morning. “There is a heavy volume of fire inside and you can see by the design and location of the building, there are exposure buildings on either side.

“Our crews were focused immediately of course on locating and removing the victims. Now that they’re out obviously our efforts are on controlling the fire and preventing the spread.”

By around 11 a.m., firefighters were winding down their operations after stamping out the blaze.

The fire gutted the building where it started, including Corrado’s Barber Shop, which has been at the site for over 50 years.

“From 17 to 72, I never stopped working a day,” shop owner Corrado Accaputo told CP24 at the scene. Visibly shaken, Accaputo said he had been advised to go home because there was nothing he could do at the scene.

Heavy, thick smoke could be seen billowing from the building as firefighters worked to contain the blaze from aerial ladders. While firefighters initially entered the building to combat the flames, they were ordered to retreat because of the dangerous conditions

“The flames were very, very intense. It escalated and grew very, very quickly. That’s why you heard our incident commanders declare, ‘Urgent urgent urgent.’ That’s an indication to our crews inside that conditions are no longer safe inside. They wanted them out,” Pegg said.

He added that the adjoining buildings downtown pose a challenge for firefighters as flames can easily spread.

“When we’re in the downtown core like this and in an urban environment where the exposures are so tight, it becomes a real challenge for us,” Pegg said.

The cold temperatures also posed a challenge for firefighters as their breathing apparatuses were freezing, forcing them to take breaks so that the equipment could thaw out.

Trucks, hoses and ladders became caked in ice as firefighters doused the active fire in water. Crew members occasionally scattered salt on sidewalks and roadways around the scene, which had turned into sheets of ice.

An extreme cold weather alert is in place for the city, as wind chill values dip below -16 C in the morning and -22 C overnight.

Pegg said crews also responded, as a precaution, to a number of buildings in the area where residents reported the smell of heavy smoke.

Toronto Fire is advising people to avoid the area if they don’t need to be there. Pegg said hydro has been shut down in parts of the area because of the fire and some nearby residents could experience power outages.

The cause of the fire is not yet known. Toronto Fire investigators are attending the scene and the Office of the Fire Marshall has been notified as well.

Bathurst Street is closed both ways between Adelaide and Queen streets as crews deal with the fire.

TTC service is also diverting around the area.