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1 person found dead in 5-alarm fire at North York high rise

Last Updated Nov 16, 2019 at 2:51 pm EDT

One person has been found dead on a balcony after a five-alarm blaze swept through three floors of a North York apartment building and police are treating the death has suspicious.

One other person was taken to hospital and as many as 700 people were left displaced.

Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said Saturday morning the deceased person was found on an eighth floor balcony during an investigation operations.

Deputy Chief Tony Bavota said they were not aware that anyone was unaccounted for until they found the body during a secondary search.

The body was discovered just after 1 a.m. No details about the victim have been released.

Toronto police say they are running a parallel investigation with Toronto Fire and the Fire Marshall’s Office.

It was not yet clear what the caused the blaze or in what unit it started.

The blaze is officially out but just after midnight the Electrical Safety Authority determined power to the entire building would have to be cut and all the residents were evacuated for the night.

Bavota said they are still completing an assessment of the building to determine when residents will be able to return.

Fire crews were called to the apartment complex on Gosford Boulevard near Jane Street and Steeles Avenue West at around 5:30 p.m.

When firefighters arrived, smoke and flames could be seen billowing out from several units on the 7th, 8th and 9th floors of the 15 storey building.

“I heard some screaming, I smelled some smoke and I looked out my balcony and two floors above me there was fire just billowing out from the balcony,” said resident Felix Gomez, who sought shelter with his dogs in his car while firefighters fought the blaze.

“I’m a little shook up but I’m not complaining because, like I said, I just feel bad for the families who probably lost everything in their apartment and they have nowhere to stay tonight. I’m lucky enough that I don’t think my unit got any damage.”

At least two residents told CityNews they witnessed a man on his balcony, calling for help.

Fire crews say six people had to be rescued from the building and one of them was transported to hospital in serious but stable condition.

Four hours after firefighters arrived, the inferno was declared under control. At the height of the blaze up to 22 fire trucks and 100 firefighters were on the scene.

“We have crews inside the building, moving floor-to-floor and suite-to-suite doing checks on anyone still inside the building making sure that we identify anyone that may need assistance, said Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg.

“We have a long night ahead of us.”

The Office of Emergency Management was called in to help with a number of residents left displaced by the blaze and the Driftwood Community Centre opened its doors to provide temporary shelter for some of those forced out of their homes.

Red Cross are asking for monetary donations or to volunteer, but are asking people to avoid donating items as are not equipped to deal with them.

Spokeswoman Mairianna Bachynsky says they currently have 89 people registered for assistance.

Mayor John Tory tweeted he was saddened to learn an individual was found dead in the aftermath of the fire. He said he recently received a briefing from Toronto Fire and that there has been good co-operation from the landlord in drying out the electrical system and assessing damage.

“We are exploring every avenue to speed things up but a safe return may take a while,” read Tory’s tweet. “Thank you to all the emergency crews, City and Red Cross workers who are helping people evacuated from the building.”