Firefighters struggle to put out massive blaze at Scarborough rec centre
Contrary to what one might assume, extreme cold weather can make it hard to snuff out stubborn fires—especially in large, lofty spaces like the Agincourt Recreation Centre, as emergency crews have been demonstrating now for more than 18 hours.
Firefighters were called to the centre near Glen Watford Drive and Rural Avenue in Scarborough around 4:45 p.m. on Thursday night after flames started shooting from a mechanical room.
The fire was deemed a 5-alarm blaze at its peak, though it has since been downgraded to 3 alarms. Still, as of Friday morning, it rages on, despite the all-night efforts of Toronto's finest.
City of Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said just before noon on Friday that crews continue to struggle with "extreme cold and icing situations."
Some of said crews reportedly had to thaw their equipment on TTC shelter buses overnight as the wind chill brought temperatures to a painful low of -31 C.
Operations are continuing on scene at Agincourt Rec Centre. Crews continue to deal with extreme cold and icing situations. Investigators from both @Toronto_Fire and OFMEM are on site. No injuries have been reported. @cityoftoronto pic.twitter.com/cAst9Bh4Oh— Matthew Pegg (@ChiefPeggTFS) February 1, 2019
Photos and videos from the scene show just what fire crews have been dealing with: Strong winds, icy ladders, instant, and stalactite-like icicle formations.
Firefighter perches on the tip of an ice encrusted ladder in a fog of smoke and steam. He uses a stick to pull pieces of roofing off the Agincourt Rec Centre. Beneath him, fire. pic.twitter.com/XR84suQQUq— Linda Ward (@LindaWardCBC) February 1, 2019
More than 30 trucks were called to the scene, where heavy smoke and cold fog has made visibility an issue.
Support 7 on scene assisting with rehab operations pic.twitter.com/VEKyjFY5nG— GTMAA (@GTMAA) February 1, 2019
No injuries have been reported, but witnesses say that people using the pool were forced to run outside wearing little more than swimwear when the fire was first reported.
It's the firefighters who are bearing the brunt of the physical pain, however, as they fight relentlessly against both fire and ice at the very same time.
One of @Toronto_Fire’s finest on a @TTChelps shelter bus thawing out and taking a well-deserved break battling this fire at Agincourt Recreation Centre. Thank you to the women and men for their tireless work overnight and today. pic.twitter.com/tB0GdV1Skd— Brad Ross (@bradrossTO) February 1, 2019
Many locals are thanking fire crews for their tireless work on Twitter right now.
Huge Kudos to @tofire staff for working in such frigid conditions!!!. And for Toronto Parks staff getting everyone out of the building safely! #Scarborough #Agincourt #Fire #TOPoli https://t.co/KVqgv8TQao— Paul Ainslie (@cllrainslie) February 1, 2019
Scarborough residents are also mourning the destruction of a vital community hub — which, as of 1 p.m. on Friday, is still on fire.
Thank you @Toronto_Fire & @TPFFA for your work in this bitter cold to put out this fire. It was the pool I got my first job at, and the community centre my parents still go to. Sad to see it so badly damaged, but glad you work so hard to ensure no lives were lost. Kudos!— James Elliott (@iamjwe) February 1, 2019
City of Toronto spokesperson Brad Ross notes that, after the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre, the Agincourt Community Centre is Scarborough's second-busiest recreational facility with nearly 3,000 registrations for more than 400 different courses this season.
"Can't thank crews from Toronto Fire enough for battling this fire in this bitter cold," he wrote on Twitter this morning. "Agincourt Recreational Centre programs are cancelled until further notice."
The financial impact caused by the fire is yet to be determined, nor has how much of the building will need to be rebuilt after all of the fire, ice, smoke and water damage.
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