Smuggled flares spark fire at Ottawa Fury game

Small fire disrupts Ottawa Fury game

Ottawa police are investigating after flares set off by fans of the visiting team ignited fires on the turf and in the stands at TD Place, interrupting a Canadian Championship semi-final match between Ottawa Fury FC and Toronto FC.

The incident happened around the 72nd minute of play, when Toronto FC fans occupying a field-level section in the stadium's north side stand began lighting red flares. One was tossed onto the pitch, igniting a small fire on the artificial turf until a stadium employee removed the flare and another extinguished the flames.

Meanwhile, another flare ignited a fire in the stands. The flames, which briefly appeared out of control, were quickly extinguished by stadium staff. There was also a loud boom which startled many fans, most of whom were seated in the opposite south side stand.

Most of the Toronto FC fans fled the section and made for the gates, while the referee stopped the game for several minutes.

Firefighters arrived soon after, but the fires were already out.

Michele Dion, a communications specialist with the team, said the fans who were involved were quickly removed by security.

Dion said no one was injured in the incident.

An official statement from the team noted fans are subject to bag checks, and TD Place will review the incident to see where security could be improved. 

Dion said some fans in other parts of the stadium called police and firefighters.

Toronto FC has apologized for the actions of their fans, and on Thursday moved to suspend privileges to its supporter groups.

"The events which took place in Ottawa last night involving TFC supporters were unacceptable and needlessly put the safety of others at risk," said Toronto FC president Bill Manning in a statement. "We are fully cooperating with the Ottawa Police Department as they investigate this incident and work to identify those responsible."

The Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group will face a fine from Soccer Canada because the flares are prohibited objects and should not have gotten past security, Dion said. 

The game resumed after debris was cleared from the stands and field. 

The Ottawa Fury lost the game 1-0 to Toronto FC. The second leg of the semi-final moves to Toronto July 25.