liberty village fire

Explosive fire breaks out at tent encampment in Toronto's Liberty Village

A 50-year-old man has been taken to hospital with burn injuries after several tents caught fire within a homeless encampment in the condo-dense Toronto neighbourhood of Liberty Village on Tuesday evening.

The blaze broke out just before 5:30 p.m. in a park on Fraser Avenue near King Street West, just north of a city-run respite centre that has proven controversial since opening more than two years ago.

Onlookers flocked to the scene with their phones at the ready to film what was happening, as evidenced by a slew of footage uploaded to Twitter, Instagram and Reddit.

Toronto Police Constable Edward Parks said that an initial call came in for "a possible fire" and reports of "things blowing up" at 5:27 p.m. on Dec. 8.

Multiple callers told police that propane tanks were being thrown into the fire and exploding, though the cause of the blaze and resultant explosions remains under investigation.

Toronto fire crews arrived to the scene within minutes of the initial call to find at least three tents on fire, which they swiftly put out.

The aforementioned male, an apparent resident of the encampment, was immediately taken to hospital with burn wounds.

Police are investigating reports of a "person who intentionally threw accelerant onto the fire," says Parks, but have not yet confirmed that this happened.

However it came about, at least one explosion was captured on camera Tuesday night, intensifying the screams of distress among beleaguered encampment residents.

The proliferation of encampment fires has become an increasingly urgent issue in Toronto this season as more people than ever choose to live outdoors over unsafe and overcrowded shelters amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Toronto Fire crews put out at least nine fires at homeless encampments in the city this past weekend alone, one of which involved a foam-based sleeping pod that burst into flames.

There had been 226 tent fires in Toronto this year to date as of Monday, one of them fatal.

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