One person dead after fire at Toronto highrise apartment building

TORONTO — One person is dead and hundreds have been evacuated from their homes after fire erupted in a highrise apartment building in north Toronto on Friday afternoon and quickly spread to several floors.

About 100 firefighters and 22 trucks raced to the scene of the five-alarm blaze as flames and smoke belched from the building.

Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said Saturday that firefighters discovered the body on the eighth floor around 1 a.m.

"Unfortunately, given the heavy flames ... we simply were not able to get into those suites until such time as the crews had suppressed the fire," he said.

The office of Ontario Fire Marshal said it has traced the source of the blaze to the eighth floor apartment where the deceased person was found but has not yet determined what caused the fire.

During the blaze, some terrified tenants went out on their balconies where witnesses said they could be heard screaming for help.

Pegg called the work to extinguish the fire a "demanding, complex operation" and said firefighters removed six people from their apartments and one person was taken to hospital last night in stable condition. 

"We literally had crews working on every floor of the building, moving from door-to-door-to-door," he said. "The search for occupants inside the building commenced immediately and literally never stopped."

The fire service said several people were rescued, and at least one was taken to hospital where they were listed in stable condition.

Structural engineers were also called to the building Saturday to determine when it will be safe for residents to return to their homes.

The Canadian Red Cross said it was providing temporary shelter for as many as 90 of the residents of the building, which is home to approximately 700 people.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said Saturday he was saddened to learn of the death caused by the fire but thanked first responders and the Canadian Red Cross for their work to help those evacuated.

"There has been good co-operation from landlord drying out the electrical system and assessing damage," Tory said in a social media message. "We are exploring every avenue to speed things up but safe return may take a while."

This report from The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 16, 2019.

Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press