Heroic U of T student heartbroken after classmate killed in Scarborough house fire

Toronto firefighters have found the body of an 18-year-old woman inside a house in Scarborough after a fire injured three people early Wednesday.

18-year-old international student from China killed, 3 others injured

Toronto firefighters stand near the scene of a house fire in Scarborough early Wednesday. One person is dead and three people are injured, one seriously. (Tony Smyth/CBC)

When Loick Masunda's girlfriend saw smoke billowing from a Scarborough home Wednesday morning, the University of Toronto student leapt into action to help.

It was about 2:30 a.m. when Masunda raced over to the nearby home on Haida Court, near Ellesmere Road and Military Trail, where flames and smoke were pouring out of the back of the property. Two men rushed outside screaming for help, saying a woman was trapped inside.

On instinct, he says, he rushed over to the front window and broke it, pulling a woman out from inside.
When flames broke out at a Scarborough home Wednesday morning, Loick Masunda rushed over and smashed a window, pulling a woman out from inside. (CBC)

"She was burnt, she was in pain, shocked," Masunda said. "I tried to calm her down and brought her to the paramedics."

Unbeknownst to him at the time, another woman was trapped upstairs.

This is a deep tragedy and we need to know what happened.- Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg
He would later learn an 18-year-old woman was found dead, also a University of Toronto student at the school's Scarborough campus. Three others managed to escape and were taken to hospital, one of whom jumped from a window on the second floor but wasn't seriously hurt. 
A Toronto firefighter steps over fire hoses near the scene of a fatal house fire on Haida Court, near Ellesmere Road and Military Trail. (Tony Smyth/CBC)

Paramedics took one woman in her 20s with serious injuries to a burn unit at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

Officials with the school told reporters at the scene the woman was an international student from China. Three other students in the home were also international students.

But while he managed to rescue one person, Masunda says he wishes he could have done more. 

"It's really heartbreaking, and my heart goes out to her family," he said, adding that he'd never been inside the home before and didn't know the layout. "It's really sad."

Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said the smoke and flames were so intense that fire crews were not able to enter the home safely.

"This is a deep tragedy and we need to know what happened," Pegg said Wednesday morning at the scene.

Investigators are still working to determine what caused the blaze at the home and whether working smoke alarms were present. Ontario's Office of the Fire Marshal and Toronto police have also been notified.

Pegg said investigators will be conducting an external scan of the scene before the work begins inside the home. "The building is somewhat structurally unsafe at this point. We have to investigate the safety aspect of the building," he said.

Also yet to be determined is whether the home was being used as a rooming house. At least three homes on the quiet court are occupied by students, but whether this particular home fit the city's definition of a rooming house remains under investigation.

"All we know is that there were four students living in the house or in the house at 2:30 in the morning when the fire started," Toronto Fire Services Deputy Chief Jim Jessop told reporters. 

"A rooming house under the Ontario fire code is defined as when you have more than four individuals living in a building and paying remuneration," Jessop explained.

"We do not know the status of this specific building at this time."

The University of Toronto says it has contacted the students affected to support them and their family members, and any other members of the campus community who may be affected.