TORONTO – Six people had to be rescued from a burning building in northern York after a fire broke out on Friday night.
Fire crews were called to the apartment building on Gosford Boulevard, near Jane Street and Steeles Avenue West, shortly after 5:30 pm.
Video footage of the scene showed visible flames and thick black smoke rising from the 15-story building.
Toronto fire chief Matthew Pegg said the fire started on the 7th floor of the building, but spread quickly to several floors. At the height of the five-alarm fire, 22 fire trucks and about 100 people were on the scene.
"We have a total of six patients who are rescued and removed teams abroad, transferred to the care of Toronto paramedics," Pegg told reporters at the scene. "Five of these patients were evaluated on the scene and do not need transportation to the hospital."
Paramedics said a patient was transported to hospital with serious injuries.
"When our first teams arrived, there were heavy flames and smoke coming out of one of the suite windows," Pegg said. "It increased very quickly."
The fire chief called the fire "complicated." The firemen had to physically climb the floors as the elevators inside the building are not working.
“(Crews) are sold out. They are having to manually go up and down the 15 flights, they are soaked and of course it is very cold tonight. These are difficult circumstances for teams tonight. "
About four hours after teams were called to Gosford Boulevard, Toronto Fire Services said the fire was under control.
"You can see the ashes," says one resident
Chester Yim told CTV News Toronto that he had just parked in the underground parking lot when he heard the fire alarm. He said he thought it was a false alarm until his wife called him from the 12th floor apartment unit to say there was smoke in their apartment.
When Yim came around the back of the building, he saw the flames. He also saw his wife on the porch with their two small children.
"At that moment, I just decided to go upstairs," he said. "Up the stairs, you can actually see the ashes coming from the seventh floor of the stairs."
“I was screaming for them to leave. I took them off, dragged by the daughter downstairs.
Another resident of the building said he was on his ninth floor when he heard the alarm ring. She said she saw smoke and ran toward the stairs.
"We can't get down because all the stairs are smoke and the elevators are blocked," said Giovanna Manfriniv.
“I was freaking out. I called my mother because I was so scared.
Manfriniv said he heard people shouting that they couldn't breathe because of the smoke. Firefighters advised her to stay in her unit and wait on the porch until it was safe to evacuate.
Some residents may be displaced for a period of time.
The nearby Driftwood Community Recreation Center has been opened to provide shelter for any residents who may have had to evacuate the building, Pegg said.
"We won't know for some time, specifically how many people will be displaced because of the fire, but we are proactively preparing for it."
About 700 people live in the building, he said.
Speaking on Friday night, Toronto Mayor John Tory said he had talked to evacuated residents and said they would be "taken care of as best they could."
"I explained that they will be able to return home as soon as the boss and everyone decides it's safe," he said. "I know that even when I talk to them, it brings light comfort, because they get upset that they can't come home."
Pegg said investigative teams are on the scene investigating the cause of the fire. The Ontario Fire Marshall has been notified of the incident.
Roads in the area were closed as teams worked to put out the fire.