Huge 6-Alarm Fire at Toronto School Forces Evacuation of Nearby Schools, Homes

By Margaret Wollensak, The Epoch Times
May 7, 2019 Updated: May 7, 2019

TORONTO—A fire that broke out at a Toronto high school early Tuesday morning has forced local residents and at least four nearby schools to evacuate while firefighters attempt to contain the blaze.

Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg told reporters that authorities were going door to door to advise people to evacuate, as the smoke from the fire at the York Memorial Collegiate Institute is a hazard.

“I hope that they would heed that advice,” he said, according to CTV. “It is advice only, but it is advice that is being offered quite strongly by the authorities because it is their view that the smoke—and the direction which the smoke is going, mostly to the south—poses a potential hazard for people.”

The Toronto District School Board said classes at George Harvey CI had been cancelled while students and staff at three other schools—Charles E. Webster PS, Silverthorn CS, and Keelsedale JPS—have been evacuated due to smoke from the nearby fire.

The fire, which broke out just after 3:00 a.m., started as a four-alarm fire before escalating quickly to a five-alarm fire, and is currently a six-alarm fire.

The multiple alarm system is determined by the number of vehicles needed to respond to an event. The highest level, alarm level six, means 25 to 29 emergency vehicles responded. According to CP24, about 150 firefighters were at the scene.

At around 6 a.m., homes south of the burning school on Eglinton Ave. were being evacuated due to heavy smoke, with local buses being brought in for shelter, Pegg tweeted. Later in the day, shifting winds prompted the fire chief to warn people to be prepared to move to an area with cleaner air.

“Our principal focus now in collaboration with the police is making sure that we’re implementing the necessary evacuations out of an abundance of caution to keep people safe,” he said, according to CP24.

Pedestrians make their way down a smoke filled street as firefighters battle a large fire nearby at York Memorial Collegiate Institute in Toronto on May 7, 2019. (The Canadian Press/ Tijana Martin)
Pedestrians make their way along a smoke-filled street as firefighters battle a large fire nearby at York Memorial Collegiate Institute in Toronto on May 7, 2019. (The Canadian Press/Tijana Martin)

It is the second fire to break out at the school in as many days. Pegg tweeted that the two fires are likely separate incidences, and that an investigation is ongoing.

The first fire was contained by 4:00 p.m. Monday, but a second fire was spotted overnight by a thermal imaging camera, reports the Toronto Star.

One person was treated for smoke inhalation on Monday, but no serious injuries have been reported for either fire, according to CTV.

Toronto Fire Captain David Eckerman told CP24 that, while crews initially tried to battle the “complicated” fire from the inside, they were forced to retreat outside due to unsafe conditions and it’s unclear how long it will take to put the fire out.

“We’re doing everything that can be done and we’ll obviously bring it under control as quickly as we can, but I wouldn’t even hazard a guess at this point,” Pegg said.

Pegg tweeted that he had authorized heavy excavation equipment to help with the final fire suppression as a result of the extensive damage to the roof and interior structure in the main part of the building.