Fire marshal investigates blaze

The fire marshal has classified a suspicious fire in a vacant East York home as being of undetermined origin following an investigation.

At 12:21 a.m. on Thursday, crews responded to the fire at 19 Wallington Ave., near Woodbine Avenue and O’Connor Drive.

The first firefighters to arrive on the scene called for backup when they saw the smoke and flames rising from the basement of the two-storey house. According to Capt. Mike Strapko, 15 fire trucks and 60 firefighters eventually responded.

Firefighters forced open the front door, but the smoke, heat and electrical arcing made it impossible to enter. The fire had also burned a hole through the living room floor, Strapko said.

Crews put up ladders and broke the windows to allow the smoke to vent. By 1:45 a.m., firefighters had knocked down the main body of the fire. At 2:02 a.m., they declared it under control.

The property loss is estimated to be $200,000, but no one was hurt.

According to Strapko, Toronto Fire Services consider the fire suspicious because it began in a vacant house.

A neighbour, who declined to be named, was awakened by her 20-year-old son when he smelled smoke and saw the flames next door. They called 911 and went outside, waiting at the corner of the street until they were allowed back inside at around 4 a.m.

“It was a little scary,” she said. “Whatever happened obviously happened very quickly. The flames, by the time we called 911 and came outside, were shooting out the basement windows.”

Luckily, crews were able to prevent the fire from spreading to their home. They couldn’t avoid all damage, but the woman was just glad no one was hurt.

“We’ve got some outside damage. We’ve got some smoke damage inside. Thank goodness it’s easy enough to fix, though. We’re safe. That’s the important thing,” she said.

“The fire department did a phenomenal job of making sure it didn’t spread to the two houses. We have them to thank for the fact that there wasn’t a lot more damage to the house,” she added. “As long as everybody’s OK, that’s what we’re worried about.”

She’s also thankful her son was awake when the fire broke out.

“I’m just glad my son woke us up because we were already sleeping,” she said. “I definitely think there would have been a lot more damage to our house (if he hadn’t). I think we would have ended up in a lot worse shape. So we’re very lucky that he was up and noticed so fast.”