Icy conditions, extreme cold wreak havoc at 'difficult and challenging' Lawrence Park blaze

Firefighters continue to battle "hot-spots" at a blaze that ravaged a home under construction in the Lawrence Park area.

Active fire at home under construction started 7:30 p.m. Thursday

Firefighters continue to battle flareups at a fire that started at an unoccupied house on Rochester Avenue, near Lawrence Avenue E. and Mount Pleasant Road Thursday evening. (John Lesavage/CBC)

Firefighters continue to battle "hot-spots" at a blaze that ravaged a home under construction in the Lawrence Park area, according to Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg. 

The fire started Thursday evening, burned through the night and continued throughout the day on Friday. Frigid cold and icy conditions hampered efforts to extinguish the fire completely.

'Difficult and challenging operation' 

"We're still very much active here today," Pegg said Friday. "This was a very, very difficult and challenging operation for our crews."

In order to fully suppress the flames, he said firefighters may need to take the building apart. 

"There's still quite a bit of work to be done." 

Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said there's a 'significant' amount of work to be done before crews can leave the scene of the fire. (John Lesavage/CBC)

Pegg said crews suppressed the fire with no injuries, and also stopped the flames from spreading to the building's adjoining structures.

The fire was upgraded to a six-alarm response, the highest possible priority for a call, just before midnight Thursday. 

Pegg said preliminary investigations show the fire started in the basement, although he's unsure whether or not investigators will be able to determine a definitive cause. 

At this point, he said there's no evidence to indicate that the cause of the fire was suspicious in nature. 

Crews forced to pull back Thursday 

Emergency crews were called to the unoccupied house on Rochester Avenue, near Lawrence Avenue E. and Mount Pleasant Road, around 7:30 p.m. for reports of a basement fire.

Toronto Fire says that by the time crews arrived on scene the fire had progressed significantly and they were forced to pull back.

Freezing temperatures and icy surfaces hampered efforts to knock the fire down overnight Thursday. (James Morrison/ CBC)

"There's a lot of challenges for our crews to get to this fire. The home is about 5,000 square feet and made up of lightweight construction material, so it isn't safe to send firefighters in," acting Division Commander Doug Harper told CBC Toronto Thursday.  

Several TTC buses were brought in to provide shelter for firefighters battling the blaze through the night.

Flooding risk to nearby homes 

Due to the "extraordinary" magnitude of the fire, Pegg said crews were forced to use large amounts of water, which could impact nearby homes. 

"We were literally flowing thousands of litres a minute of water over a period of hours," he said.  

Pumps were being used to relocate the water away from the basements of nearby residents. 

'It's a miracle,' Tory says 

Toronto Mayor John Tory, speaking with reporters Friday afternoon, thanked the firefighters for preventing injuries, and protecting nearby property. 

"It's a miracle — with a house fire as extensive as this one — that the houses on either side seems to be relatively undamaged," he said. 

Toronto Mayor John Tory (right) and Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg spoke to reporters Friday to thank firefighters for their work on the blaze. (John Lesavage/CBC)

Tory thanked them for their ongoing efforts concerning recent downtown fires, specifically a two-day battle at a recreation centre in Scarborough last month.