Six-alarm fire in midtown Toronto

Yonge-St. Clair area blanketed in smoke, forcing evacuation

A six-alarm fire devoured the Badminton and Racquet Club of Toronto at Yonge Street and St. Clair Avenue on Tuesday, closing one of the city’s busiest intersections, and forcing the evacuation of many residents from adjacent buildings.

Interim Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg declared the blaze a five-alarm fire around 10:30 a.m., but then upgraded it to a six-alarm fire at 11:30 a.m.  It is a classification used by firefighters to determine the size of the force needed to fight the fire.

Firefighters rest after getting off the roof of the club.  (Michael Chachura)

This six-alarm fire required over 120 firefighters and over 20 trucks.

Pegg confirmed there were no injuries so far in the fire, and that his fire fighters have not suffered serious injuries either.

Kevin DaCosta is a resident of 1423 Yonge St., an apartment building near the fire. He says at 11:30 a.m. police banged on his door, and demanded he leave the building. He’s been waiting in the Thai Express restaurant beside St.Clair TTC station ever since.

“They say no one is injured, but, it’s still pretty scary,” DaCosta said. “They didn’t give us any details.”

DaCosta has no idea when he can go back to his apartment.

“I just have to wait here until it’s over, whatever. I don’t have my wallet or anything. I got up and left.”

When asked what he’s going to do, DaCosta replied, “Wait it out. I have free wifi.”

Shortly after the interview, the fire alarm in the restaurant went off due to smoke accumulating inside.

The weather Tuesday morning was not helping firefighters.

“Wind’s a factor for many reasons, obviously high winds accelerate flames, so that’s definitely an issue our crews are having to contend with,” Pegg said.

At a news conference at 11:30 a.m., Pegg said he was unsure if the structure would collapse. Pegg estimated over 80 firefighters were working, along with many members of his senior staff. By noon, Pegg estimated 120 firefighters were there fighting, up almost 50 per cent from half an hour earlier.  He said he did not think more would be needed going further.

“I don’t expect that we will escalate it more than it is. As we gain control of the incident and it starts to de-escalate, we will start to clear apparatus as well. I will be surprised if we need more.”

At the press conference, Pegg was joined by Const. David Hopkinson from the Toronto Police Service Corporate Communications, and Ward 22 councillor Josh Matlow, whose ward the fire was in.

Hopkinson spoke about the joint effort of Toronto police and Toronto fire department in fighting the blaze.

“If you have business in this area, you’re invited to come to this area,” Hopkinson said. “But we’d like to keep people that would just like to spectate away, so that we can give our crews the room to fight this fire and deal with this situation.”

Matlow urged evacuated residents to follow the news and Toronto Fire on social media for updates. He too urged his constituents who did not need to be there to stay away.

“If you smell smoke, you’re too close,” Matlow said.