Fire rages at nearly century-old York Memorial, 2nd one in 12 hours

By News Staff

A 90-year-old high school in Toronto’s west end continues to burn after a fire broke out early Tuesday morning — the second and much larger one to erupt at York Memorial Collegiate Institute in around 12 hours.

At least 150 firefighters are currently in the area of Eglinton Avenue and Trethewey Drive battling the six-alarm fire.

Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said they have seem some success and significant progress in fighting the fire and in decreasing the volume of smoke, but adds they are a long way from finished.

Emergency crews were first called to the school for a two-alarm fire around 2:15 p.m. Monday and found flames visible from the second floor. The fire broke out in the auditorium but was then extinguished. Two people, including a firefighter, were taken to hospital with minor injuries, according to paramedics.

However, just before 3:30 a.m. on Tuesday, firefighters were called back to the scene after flames and heavy smoke began once again billowing out of the auditorium.

“The fire yesterday was and remains under investigation by the Office of the Fire Marshal, Toronto police and Toronto Fire Services,” Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg explained.

“Based on the information from the first arriving crews, all indications are that the fire we are now dealing with is separate and distinct from the fire that we dealt with yesterday.”

Fire officials said the first floor ceiling collapsed below the stage.

“We are concerned it may be suspicious,” Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner said Tuesday of the first fire, but would not elaborate further. He said the fire has to be put out first before the investigation can begin.

Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said they have been able to protect the gym, the pool and the library, but expect very heavy damage to the main part of the building.

“Given the intensity and volume of fire in the centre portion of the building, so I would expected to see extraordinary amount of damage in that section,” said Pegg.

Initially, students and staff at York Memorial were asked to report to George Harvey C.I. on Tuesday at the usual start time. However, just before 11 a.m. the TDSB announced that George Harvey was being evacuated due to smoke from the fire and that classes would be cancelled for the remainder of the day.

Silverthorn C.S., Keelsedale Junior Public School, and Charles E. Webster Public School have also been evacuated due to smoke. Parents can pick their children from the schools. All others and staff will be relocated to Oakwood C.I. for the day.

Classes at George Harvey C. I. have been cancelled for Wednesday, including for students from York Memorial C. I. Staff from the schools have been reassigned to Oakwood C. I.

Businesses and homes on the south side of Eglinton between Trethewey and Bicknell Avenue have also been evacuated.

There has been no word on what caused either fires.

Trethewey is closed between Yore Road, just north of Eglinton, to Irving Road.

Fire response by the numbers

The number of alarms attributed to a fire is based on the amount of fire resources needed to fight it.

The numbers below are a guide based on staged fire responses. Toronto Fire says their maximum response level is 6 alarms.

Fire officials note that their response adapts to the kind of blaze they’re fighting and the number of crew and equipment that is called out can vary.


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