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Man's fortunate timing saves neighbours from suspicious fire

Last Updated Jul 12, 2019 at 6:19 pm EDT

A quick check on his daughter in the middle of the night potentially saved their lives after Nate Kreiswirth spotted flames coming from the building next door.

Toronto police are now investigating that same fire in an empty rooming house on Oxford Street in Kensington Market as arson.

Just after 1 a.m. Kreiswirth went to check on his three-year-old daughter when he noticed an orange glow through her window, which opened to the back of the building next door. He said he could see flames shooting up over five feet.

He then grabbed his wife and daughter and they were able to get out of their house. His wife, Christine Aguilar, said she called 9-1-1 and began to shout “fire”, alerting the other neighbours. Aguilar said only five minutes had passed by the time fire crews were on the scene and their neighbours were safe outside.

Kreiswirth also grabbed his water hose and began to try and douse the flames.

Luckily, firefighters were able to contain it to the one building and stop it from spreading to the adjacent row houses. No one was injured in the blaze.

Acting Fire Chief Jim Jessop said “without question” Kreiswirth’s actions saved lives.

“This fire highlights some of the challenges that older downtown core [buildings] in Toronto faces,” said Jessop. “The challenges our staff face fighting fires that are more toxic, that burn faster and burn hotter, combined with the fact that these old row housed don’t have the fire separations that are required in new housing really meant that seconds did count.”

“If I hadn’t happened to be awake, it would have absolutely burned the neighbours house and then headed on to ours,” said Kreiswirth. “His kids room is just in the back as well.”

Kreiswirth said the rooming house is set to be demolished, but he’s concerned about the way the landlord boarded up some of the windows after the fire. He and his wife are both concerened another fire could be set there or squatters could potentially move in.

After speaking with CityNews, Councillor Mike Layton said he’s notified Municipal License and Standards and a by-law officer will be going to investigate to see if they’re violating any property standards.

Investigators are searching for two men who were spotted in the area – one of whom was spotted entering the home. A short time later, the fire started, causing extensive damage to the house.

The first man is described as tall and thin with wavy brown hair. He was wearing cream/white shorts. The second man was shorter than the first person of interest with a stocky build.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police.