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Third major fire in two weeks breaks out at a TCH building

Last Updated Feb 20, 2017 at 7:50 pm EDT

A woman has serious injuries after a three-alarm fire at a Toronto Community Housing (TCH) building on Monday – the third major fire at a TCH property in almost two weeks.

The fire broke out in a fifth-floor unit of the building on Dundas Street East near Sherbourne Street just before 9 a.m.

Paramedics said the woman, who is in her 50s, was taken to hospital with serious burns and smoke inhalation.

The fire is the latest to erupt at a TCH building in 12 days.

One man was killed after a three-alarm fire tore through a TCH building on George Street, near Dundas Street, around 5:45 p.m. on Feb. 9. Five other people were taken to hospital.

The day before, on Feb. 8, a fire broke out on Shuter Street, west of Parliament Street. In that case, no one was injured but fire alarms in the building did not go off because the system was being upgraded. A security guard was on “fire watch” duty instead.

“There are individual circumstances that lead to each of these fires. What we have to try to do is really provide support to people such that these kinds of things can be minimized, but they can never entirely be eliminated,” Mayor John Tory said on Monday, as he addressed concerns about fire safety at TCH properties.

“There are instances of different kinds of human behaviour and things that happen that will cause fires to occur from time to time, and the key is are you sort of ready to deal with them, have you taken every precaution.”

With respect to Monday’s fire, an elderly woman in a sixth-floor unit was also taken to hospital with minor smoke inhalation, Toronto Fire division chief Larry Cocco said at the scene.

A three-alarm fire broke out on the fifth floor of an apartment building at Dundas Street East and Sherbourne Street on Feb. 20, 2017. CITYNEWS/Daniel Berry
A three-alarm fire broke out on the fifth floor of an apartment building at Dundas Street East and Sherbourne Street on Feb. 20, 2017. CITYNEWS/Daniel Berry

 

The fire was quickly put out, but it took firefighters around an hour to vent out the smoke. Two floors of the building were evacuated and residents were housed in TTC buses.

Cocco said the unit has extensive damage, but the cause of the fire is not yet known. The Ontario Fire Marshal has been called in.

Meanwhile, a volunteer firefighter on a reservation was hailed a hero for rescuing the woman from the burning unit on the fifth floor.

Leo Meawasige said he was standing outside talking to his friend when they saw the smoke. Meawasige ran into the building and up five flights, knocking on residents’ doors to make sure everyone got out.

“I banged on every door that I possibly could trying to tell people to get out until I found a hot door,” he said.

Meawasige then kicked in the door of the fifth-floor unit and pulled the woman out into the hallway.

“The unit was engulfed in flames … the only thing I could do is stay low and try to find whoever was in there.”

He said he used a fire hose in the hallway to contain the flames to the unit. He then brought the woman into the stairwell and was met up with firefighters.

Meawasige, who has a four-year-old daughter, said he had to do something to help.

“Some people call me a hero; I just call it common sense,” he said. “I couldn’t bear knowing somebody … died in the fire while while I stood here and did nothing.”

Tory called Meawasige a “hero,” saying he “did what you hope most human beings would do.”