Kurt Browning's Forest Hill house damaged in fire
Published Wednesday, August 18, 2010 8:07PM EDT
The Toronto home of former world champion figure skater Kurt Browning may have suffered up to $1 million in damage following a three-alarm fire.
"I've never seen flames so high. They were right up to the roof," neighbour Mary Murdy said Wednesday.
Eighty firefighters and 18 fire trucks were on scene during the peak of the call in the tony Forest Hill neighbourhood, beginning around 11 a.m. They had the blaze extinguished by about 2 p.m., but firefighters were still on scene at suppertime.
Browning had reportedly been home with his youngest son and a painter when the fire started.
Officials have speculated that the fire began in the mansion's garage. Reports suggest a leaf blower may be to blame, with a man believed to be Browning perhaps trying to dry the seats of his convertible automobile.
"We initially heard the popping of glass, and it looked like it was coming from the car," said neighbour Miriam Swartz. "And then the whole house was just engulfed in flames."
Toronto Fire Division Commander Bob O'Hallarn said it looked as if the man had walked away from the vehicle for a moment and returned to find the car in flames.
From the garage, the fire spread to the house's second and third floors before emerging on the roof.
The cause will ultimately have to be determined by a full investigation, added Capt. Mike Strapko.
Browning issued a statement saying that his family -- he is married to Sonia Rodriguez, a principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada -- are glad no one was injured. The couple has two sons.
"We (are) all really very fortunate that we are all safe after today's fire at our home. Thanks to everyone for your tremendous support," he said.
"We also want to thank the firefighters and emergency workers who arrived at the house to fight the fire. They are all amazing professionals."
On the social messaging service Twitter, Browning wrote: "It is a day like today you find out who your friends are. Thanks all. KB."
Browning, originally from Alberta, is a four-time World Champion and four-time Canadian national champion.
Some worried about whether the medals and trophies that constitute Browning's legacy of athletic achievement were damaged in the blaze.
The family will likely have to live somewhere else for months as their home is repaired.
Fire kills animals
In the west end, a fire at 18 Burnfield Ave. left about 25 cats and a dog dead.
The fire may have started in a stacked dryer shortly before 1:30 p.m., Strapko told reporters.
The owner tried to battle the flames with a fire extinguisher, but they spread out of control. The owner and his son managed to escape the home safely, and four cats were also removed.
The homeowners had provided foster care for cats awaiting adoption.
Damage to the home is estimated at $400,000.
Strapko said it's important that people remove lint from dryers, "because lint can catch fire."
With a report from CTV Toronto's Naomi Parness