Toronto

Blaze at recreation centre in Scarborough finally out after intense 2-day battle

A fire that gutted part of the Agincourt Recreation Centre in Scarborough is finally extinguished, Toronto Fire says.

All programming at Agincourt Recreation Centre cancelled until further notice

Ontario's Office of the Fire Marshal is investigating the fire at the Agincourt Recreation Centre because of the amount of damage sustained by the building. (Christopher Langenzarde/CBC)

A fire that gutted a popular recreation centre in Scarborough this week is finally extinguished, Toronto Fire says.

Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg declared the fire out at the Agincourt Recreation Centre, near Midland Avenue and Sheppard Avenue E., at about 7:40 a.m. on Saturday. Fire crews were called to the scene at about 5 p.m. on Thursday. It took until Friday to bring it under control.

No one was injured in the blaze but the building was immediately evacuated when fire crews arrived. Some patrons were in their bathing suits when they were forced to leave.

"Everybody who went into the building was accounted for," Toronto Fire District Chief Stephan Powell said on Saturday. 

"We're happy that the bulk of the incident is behind us. The hard part of trying to determine what happened lays ahead."

Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg posted this image of the ice-laden building to social media. (@ChiefPeggTFS/Twitter)

Powell said the building sustained extensive fire, water and smoke damage. Its two skating rinks, however, were not damaged.

No estimate of damage to the centre has been released. As well, the cause and origin of the fire have not been determined.

It's "far, far too early" to give an estimate of the damage, Powell added.

Fire ended up in roof over pool

Overnight, fire crews brought in heavy equipment to dismantle part of the building, including the roof, to get at the blaze.

"The fire was still smouldering in areas that we couldn't get the water to, until the heavy equipment was brought in to open up the structure," he said.

Fire crews spent hours trying to reach the areas still burning in the building's roof. (@BradRossTO/Twitter)

The fire ended up in the roof over the centre's swimming pool. 

Firefighters were concerned about falling into the pool when they were fighting the fire because there was no visibility in that area of the building due to smoke.

"You can't see through smoke," Powell said.

That concern slowed firefighting efforts from the inside, he said. "We did go into the building, and we did fight the fire from inside the building, but it makes it much slower," he said.

"If you just charge in, looking for the fire, with zero visibility, the firefighters could have easily ended up in the pool, submerged."

Crews continuing to monitor hot spots

At the scene, fire crews are continuing to monitor hot spots. 

At the fire's peak, 130 firefighters and 37 vehicles were involved in the effort to contain the blaze. (CBC)

The Ontario's Office of the Fire Marshal is investigating the fire because of the amount of damage involved. Investigators were at the scene on Saturday.

Firefighting efforts were hampered by the layout of the building, the thickness of its roof and the bitterly cold temperature outside. The fire burned inside the roof itself.

Crews were forced to thaw out equipment on TTC shelters buses at various points during the fight. 

At its peak, the fire reached a four-alarm status. That means 130 firefighters and 37 vehicles responded to the call.

The centre was the second busiest in Scarborough after the Pan Am Sports Centre. It had nearly 3,000 registrations in the winter session for more than 400 courses and classes.

A view of firefighting efforts late Thursday night. Crews had two ladders attacking the flames from above, with additional crews brought in to replace the others. (Adrian Cheung/CBC)

City spokesperson Brad Ross said all programming at the centre is cancelled until further notice.

The centre employs about 10 full-time and about 50 part-time staff. The city will redeploy them elsewhere, he said. 

City may transfer programs to other facilities

The city needs to assess which areas can be reopened and which will require extensive repairs or reconstruction. Officials will look to transfer programs held at the centre to other facilities starting next week.

"We don't have any of those plans yet," Ross said.

"It's a huge loss for the community and that's why the city is bound and determined to rebuild that centre as quickly as possible and get programming restarted there as quickly as we can as well," he said. "It was a very popular and very busy community centre."

The building will be turned over to Parks, Forestry and Recreation in the next few days. Insurance adjusters are expected to assess the damage after that, he said.

The city will have to decide when it can reopen the ice rinks.

People who used the centre are urged to call 311 or go online to the city's website to find out where else in Toronto they can access recreational programs. Anyone who paid for a course at the centre will be refunded the money in the form of a credit, Ross said. 

With files from Natalie Nanowski

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