Roslyn Stephenson was asleep in the early hours of April 6 when she heard a knock at her door. As she went to check who it was, she looked out her window and noticed her backyard was engulfed in flames.
Stephenson immediately called the fire department, while neighbours came to make sure that she got to safety. In her 10 years living on Coleridge Avenue, near Woodbine and Lumsden avenues, nothing like this has happened before, she said.
“We have a tight community here,” said Stephenson, 71. “It doesn’t make sense.”
The fire department arrived shortly after 1:30 a.m.
No major valuables, other than gardening tools, were damaged in the fire, Stephenson said.
Neighbours told the East York Observer they’d heard footsteps close to Stephenson’s home in the night and they suspected arson.
Toronto police have yet to confirm arson was involved.
What’s shocking, Stephenson said, is that it was garbage day that morning, with some residents taking out their garbage early to avoid doing it, come sunrise. It surprised her the presence of neighbours outside didn’t deter suspicious behaviour in the area.
That’s how Mark Dowling, 57, who lives across the street from Stephenson, was one of the first to notice the blaze.
He recalled seeing flames and hearing crackling in the direction of Stephenson’s house, thinking it was coming from a building further away. Once Dowling realized where the fire was, he knocked on Stephenson’s door and her next-door neighbours’ to make sure they got to safety, he said.
“I was just concerned about [Stephenson’s] safety,” he said. “She’s a senior and she has tenants, so I was more concerned about her.”
Dowling said he tried to get to Stephenson’s car parked by the garage, but the flames were too strong.
In the nights since, Stephenson said she has been nervous about the supposed arsonist returning. She said she once woke up at night thinking someone was lurking outside.
Stephenson is now dealing with insurance to cover the damage caused and plans to get a better security light for her driveway. She said she had motion sensors outside on the night of the incident, but they were tampered with.
Police are investigating the incident and have canvassed the neighbourhood for surveillance footage.