Toronto

Riverdale woman found dead in house fire

Fire officials say they have located the body of an elderly woman in the debris of her Riverdale home destroyed by fire early Friday.

Woman, 81, asleep on ground floor when fire erupted, fire officials say

An 81-year-old woman is dead after a fire at her Riverdale home. 2:51

Fire officials say they have located the body of an elderly woman in the debris of her Riverdale home destroyed by fire early Friday.

The 81-year-old was asleep in a bed on the ground floor, according to authorities, when the fast-moving fire erupted.

Andrew Kostiuk, a division commander with Toronto Fire Services, told CBC News that the woman was likely unaware that the fire was occurring or she may have been knocked out by smoke. She used a walker, and there were no signs to indicate she tried to leave the home.

The blaze broke out at 282 Withrow Ave. — located near Pape Avenue — just after 4 a.m.

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      Kathleen Wolf's sister and brother-in-law live in the home next door to the east of the house that burned down. Wolf told CBC News they are away, and she came to the scene after a friend heard about the fire from news reports. 

      Wolf said her sister had called Toronto fire in the past to warn them that the house was at risk of a fire and the elderly woman who lived there may have been a hoarder. According to Wolf, the woman did not let fire officials into her home when they came to speak with her about the call. 

      But Kostiuk said the fire crews have found no evidence the woman was a true hoarder, only that she likely "collected stuff."

      'I've never seen anything like it'

      Patricia Goluvev, who lives near the house, said she awoke to hear someone in the street yelling "everybody get out of your house."

      She stepped into the street and saw her neighbour's house incinerate in what seemed like an instant.

      "I've never seen anything like it," she told CBC News. "It was an unbelievable fire. It was absolutely frightening. It just happened so fast. I just can't believe that house is gone. I'm in shock."

      Sebastian Clovis was awakened by the light of the fire, then watched as the house burned and collapsed.

      "I've never seen a house come down like that," he told CBC News. "My legs are still shaking to be honest."

      After the flames were extinguished, the roof of the three-storey house was sitting on top of the debris at street level.

      There is no word yet on what may have caused the fire. Officials said the fire marshal with halt the investigation at sundown and resume around 8 a.m. on Saturday morning. 

      The Riverdale fire wasn't the only one in the city last night. A fire in the in the west end just after 1 a.m. forced a family of five from their home near Martingrove Road and Steeles Avenue West.

      The third blaze was downtown, on Queen Street West near John Street where a fire broke out in a convenience store below some apartments. Police have since charged a 36-year-old with arson, among other charges, in connection with the fire.