Furniture in hallway, lack of sprinklers a concern in deadly fire, says Toronto fire chief

Toronto Fire Services says that some furniture in a hallway where a fire broke out in an apartment building housing seniors is a concern.

Building had not been inspected by fire services since 2013

Toronto Deputy Fire Chief Jim Jessop said the outcome of Friday's deadly fire would have been different had more sprinklers been installed in the building. He noted, however, that the building was built to code. (CBC)

Toronto Fire Services says that some furniture in a hallway where a fire broke out in an apartment building housing seniors is a concern. 

Three people died and another 15 were sent to hospital after the fire, which broke out Friday around 3 p.m..

The building did not have sprinklers in every room and in every hallway, according to Deputy Fire Chief Jim Jessop, who spoke to reporters Saturday afternoon.

Jessop says sprinklers in every room and hallway are not legally required in the building because it was built to code prior to 2007, when the law changed.

"If sprinklers had been installed to today's standard the outcome would have been different," said Jessop.

One investigator said poor fire education may have been a factor in the deadly blaze, noting that some victims may have been overcome by smoke after fleeing their apartments. (CBC)

Jessop added that some of the furniture was made with very flammable synthetic materials.

He also noted that the building is not a retirement home, but many seniors do live there. If it had been classified as a retirement home, Jessop says the building would have to be inspected annually. It was last inspected by fire services in 2013.

The cause of the fire has not been determined. The fire marshal is investigating to see if there were any fire code violations.

Jessop says post-mortems will likely be done on Monday.

'A nightmare'

Aziman Hayat was in her apartment on the fifth floor when the fire started. She said she tried to get out, but there was too much smoke and fire in the hallway. She locked herself in her apartment and opened her screen door and window to get fresh air.

She stayed in her apartment for an hour until she was rescued by firefighters.

"It's the day after a nightmare because it was really horrifying and very frightening," she said. "By the power of God, I survived it."

Aziman Hayat lives on the fifth floor of the building where the fire broke out. She locked herself in her room and waited for an hour until firefighters rescued her. (CBC)

She said she does not know who the people are who died. She went to the hospital Friday to be treated for smoke inhalation.

Earlier Saturday, Toronto Mayor John Tory said it is "very disconcerting" that the relatively small fire at the east-end apartment building fire took so many lives, but said the site appears to have had a fire plan. 

Tory spoke to reporters around midnight at the scene of Friday's deadly blaze, which has raisied questions about fire preparedness among its residents. 

Tory spoke to reporters at about midnight at the scene of Friday's deadly blaze. 3:36

Tory — who returned to the city from meetings in Ottawa — surveyed the damage to the fifth floor of the Toronto Community Housing building on Neilson Road in Scarborough.

It seems smoke was a major consideration.- Toronto Mayor John Tory

"What you can see is a very limited area that was actually affected by fire, but produced a huge amount of smoke," he said. 

"It seems smoke was a major consideration," he added. 

An Ontario fire marshal investigator said earlier in the day that poor fire education may have been a factor, noting that some victims may have been overcome by smoke after fleeing their apartments and venturing into a top floor hallway.

"You need to have a plan if there's a fire in the building," said fire marshal investigator Jeff Tebby. 

Tory said, based on what he saw and was told, he's certain there was "some kind of a plan" at the building. 

"This is all part of what will have to be investigated," he said, adding that personnel had moved "methodically, from apartment to apartment," even when the fire and smoke were at their worst. 

The mayor added, "it's not time to judge — it's time to grieve."

Tory commended the efforts of emergency personnel and expressed "deep condolences to the families," noting that many were still waiting for the victims to be identified. 

"This is the worst time of all for those people," he said. 


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