Unidentified man threatened family of Syrian refugees prior to townhouse fire
Chris Fox, CTV Toronto
Published Saturday, October 7, 2017 7:13AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, October 7, 2017 10:02PM EDT
Police are looking into whether threats directed at a family of Syrian refugees on Friday evening could have something to do with a fire that gutted their townhouse complex just hours later.
The blaze broke out behind the complex on Bloor Street near Dixie Road at around 2:15 a.m. and then quickly spread to adjoining units through the roof of the structure.
Though the cause of the fire is unknown, it occurred just a few hours after an unidentified man threatened a family that lived in one of the townhouse complex’s units.
Khaled Alawad told CP24 that the man showed up at his door at around 5 p.m. and accused him of stealing a bike. Alawad said he explained to the man that he has owned the bike for six months but couldn’t reason with him. He said the man then made some disparaging remarks about Syrians and refugees and attempted to push open his door.
“I called 9-11. Police came in two minutes, three minutes and he escaped,” Alawad said. “I made a report with the police and they asked if I knew this person but I didn’t know this person.”
Alawad said that his family lost “everything,” in the fire, including Halloween outfits that he had just bought for his three children.
“I don’t know what to do,” he said, noting that he hasn’t yet told his youngest child about the extent of the damage. “I lost everything, everything.”
Investigation continues at scene
Two firefighters did sustain minor injuries in the blaze but no serious injuries were reported/
Speaking with CP24 earlier in the day, Platoon Chief Alan Hill said it could have been much worse.
“When crews arrived on scene there was a massive amount of fire from the centre of the townhouse complex that had roared right up to the roof and quickly spread all across the roof of the townhouse complex,” he said. “It is definitely a relief that no one was seriously injured in this and the reason why is that every second counts. The residents quickly reacted to the flames, they exited their units and they found a safe meeting place so they could be accountable to each other and know everyone got out safely.”
The bulk of the fire was knocked down by 7 a.m. but crews remained on scene checking for hot spots on Saturday morning.
Hills told CP24 that firefighters will likely use portable saws to access some of the areas where there is “deep-seated burning,” such as under charred roofing shingles.
The cause of the fire has not been determined at this point, though one resident did tell CP24 that she observed the altercation at Alawad’s home and suspects it could suggest that something sinister may have happened.
“He took off and we thought everything was great but then around 2:45 a.m. the flames were coming from the house,” the woman said. “It seems it started at the back where we have garbage. It was a small fire there to begin with but there must have been an accelerant because it went up real quick.”
Police tell CP24 that it is too early to say whether the altercation at the home earlier in the night may be connected to the fire but they say it is part of their investigation.
“I can’t speculate on that. Of course investigators will be going around and canvassing the residents and speaking to tenants and witnesses in an attempt to get that information,” Const. Bancroft Wright told CP24 at the scene.
Paramedics say that they assessed four patients on scene but only transported the two firefighters to hospital. Those firefighters have since been treated and released.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money for the displaced family.