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Tory promises fire-ravaged Agincourt Recreation Centre will be rebuilt

Last Updated Feb 1, 2019 at 6:51 pm EDT

Toronto Mayor John Tory says they plan to rebuild the Agincourt Recreation Centre “as soon as we possibly can.”

Fire crews remained on scene more than 25 hours after a massive fire broke out at the Scarborough centre around 4:30 p.m. Thursday.

The fire was quickly upgraded to a four-alarm blaze due to the cold, which made it necessary to call in more trucks in order to rotate crews battling the blaze in frigid temperatures. Around 15 units and close to 50 firefighters were on scene.

Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said 14 inches of insulation, wood and other material in the roof made it difficult if crews to extinguish the flames.

Pegg said the bitterly cold conditions caused pumper trucks and hose lines to freeze, along with other equipment problems.

“The tanks that the firefighters are wearing [and] the regulators are freezing. We’re having to bring them inside the shelter buses or rehab trucks just to get those pieces of equipment thawed out so we can use them again and redeploy them,” he said.

On Friday, Tory reassured members of the community that the centre would be rebuilt and cost will not be an issue.

“This place is a very, very important place – one of the best used community centres in all of Toronto,” said Tory. “The money will not be the obstacle.”

“The objective will be to do it as soon as possible because these kinds of facilities are important to the health and well-being of the people but also to the health and harmony and peacefullness of the community.”

Tory says the city is currently formulating a game plan to relocate and replicate as many of the programs as possible at other facilities, such as the Pam Am Sports Centre, the Centennial Recreation Centre and the Birchmount Community Centre.

City of Toronto spokesperson Brad Ross said the people who are registered for winter programs at the centre should find out in the few days whether some courses can resume or if others will be cancelled.

Due to the fire, students and staff at Sir Alexander Mackenzie Senior Public School were relocated to Agincourt Collegiate Institute for classes on Friday. Staff and students at St. Bartholomew will attend St. Ignatius of Loyola.

The recreation centre was active and open when the fire broke out and was evacuated shortly after.

Shortly after 6 p.m., a full evacuation of the building was ordered and fire crews were also removed from the building.

Pegg said the order was given as a precautionary measure.

“The vast majority of this fire appears to be above their heads in the roof area. So that presents a hazardous condition for them,” he said, adding that defensive operations were continuing from outside the structure.

Police said there were hazardous chemicals inside the building as it houses a swimming pool and an arena and the smoke could be toxic.

Pegg said heavy hazardous materials crews were able to isolate the chemicals used for pool and arena maintenance around 7 p.m.

A few people ran out of the recreation centre in swimsuits and shorts and were placed in warming buses. Some were reportedly being assessed on scene but no injuries were reported.