Two firefighters were seriously injured while battling a four-alarm blaze downtown early Saturday morning.
Emergency crews were called when flames broke out at a three-storey building at Shuter and Jarvis streets around 2 a.m. It had escalated to a third alarm by the time fire crews arrived.
The fire happened at a vacant, abandoned building and the cause is still unknown.
District Fire Chief Stephen Powell tells 680 NEWS the firefighters were injured after falling from the top of the building. They were stabilized on scene by paramedics and taken to St. Michael’s Hospital nearby.
It’s reported they were walking on the roof and took a step on what they believed to be a stable part of it when it gave way and they both fell.
A captain suffered critical injuries and is currently in intensive care while the other firefighter suffered a broken leg.
“There really isn’t a phone call that a fire chief will ever get that bothers me more than one indicating that members of our team have been hurt,” Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said. “This really is the worst case scenario for me.”
Pegg described the critically injured firefighter as highly experienced – a 36-year veteran – and well respected within the department.
“They were working very, very hard under very challenging conditions,” Pegg said. “It’s dark, there’s a large volume of smoke that’s emanating from a very, very aggressive fire.”
“It is a tough day, and any point in time when any member of our service is injured, it’s something that all of us feel,” Pegg said. “There’s a real sense of a concern almost from a family level here.”
Pegg said the operation was particularly difficult because the building was abandoned and it was unclear whether anyone was inside.
“Our first goal always is, and will always be, the rescue of people that may be trapped,” Pegg said. “Dealing with and responding to fires… especially when we cannot confirm if everyone is accounted for and safe, means that our people will assume and take on a considerable amount of risk.”
Powell adds a demolition permit had reportedly been issued for that building and a building inspector is on the scene assessing what parts are safe to re-enter.
The Ontario Fire Marshall has been called in to investigate.
Police Chief Mark Saunders also offered support for the injured firefighters, tweeting “The Toronto Police are thinking of our injured Toronto Fire Firefighters and their families and colleagues today. As first responder partners, we are with you today.”
Mayor John Tory also released a statement, saying “We are all praying for the recovery of both firefighters and Toronto Fire is doing everything they can to support their families at this difficult time.”
Very thankful for the dedicated @TorontoMedics and @StMikesHospital professionals who responded to and are treating our injured @Toronto_Fire Firefighters this morning. Thoughts and prayers are with our critically injured Captain and his family today. @TPFFA
— Matthew Pegg (@ChiefPeggTFS) November 2, 2019