By ALAN SHACKLETON
Four people have died and a fifth is in critical condition after a fire at a house on Gainsborough Road in the Coxwell Avenue and Gerrard Street East area.
A sixth person is in hospital in stable condition.
Fire crews were called to the house at 95 Gainsborugh Rd. just after 4:30 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 29.
When they arrived the found the house fully burning on the second floor, said Toronto Fire Services Deputy Chief Jim Jessop at a media scrum later on Friday morning in the parking lot of the No Frills grocery store directly across the street from the scene of the fire.
“It was ferocious fire,” Deputy Chief Jessop said.
Firefighters removed five people from the house, and a sixth person was able to escape on their own. All of those deceased or injured were residing in the house at 95 Gainsborough.
The neighbouring house to the south, 93 Gainsborough Rd., was severely damaged in the fire as well.
No names have been released on those killed or injured in this fire but the house is understood to be occupied by a woman in her 70s, her daughter and at least one of her daughter’s children. Names will not be released until police have officially notified next of kin, Deputy Chief Jessop said.
Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg was at the scene this morning and expressed condolences to the family and friends of those who had been killed and injured.
“This is a tragic occurrence,” he said. “I have spoken to Mayor (John) Tory about this and these are hard days for our team and our city.”
This fire is one of the deadliest in recent history in Toronto.
“This is one of the worst tragedies by fire I have seen in my career,” said Chief Pegg.
Four people died in a fire at a seniors’ building on Neilson Road in Scarborough in February of 2016.
“Prior to that you’re literally going back into the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. This is unusual thank goodness,” he said.
Beaches-East York Councillor also added his condolences to those impacted by the Gainsborough Road fire.
“The loss of four lives is hard to make sense of. It’s devastating,” he said.
Bradford said neighbours impacted by the fire are being offered support by the City of Toronto.
“The residents in the neighbouring homes have been offered assistance by the City’s Office of Emergency Management including help with transportation from the TTC and access to temporary accommodation,” he said.
Three firefighters who part of the search and rescue team in the house suffered minor injuries, and have all been treated and released.
Chief Pegg said the extremely cold weather made the fire a difficult one to fight.
“It’s obviously very cold out and ice was a major concern, and the difficult circumstances made it even more challenging,” he said. “The guys are soaking wet and can freeze. We really have to watch out for firefighters getting frostbite.”
He also thanked Toronto police and paramedics for the work and support they provided during this tragic incident.
Deputy Chief Jessop said that work by the first fire crews on the scene made the difference in preventing the neighbouring houses from being completely destroyed.
“That the adjacent houses are still standing is because of the efforts of our crews the job they did under extremely difficult conditions,” he said.
The cause of the fire is now under investigation. The Ontario Fire Marshal will be part of that investigation, Chief Pegg said.
Gainsborough Road remains closed between Eastwood Road and Gerrard Street East while fire crews remain on scene and the investigation begins.
Coxwell Avenue was reopened to traffic at approximately 10:30 a.m.