City will do 'whatever it takes' to rebuild rec centre ruined by fire, mayor says
Chris Fox, CTV News Toronto
Published Friday, February 1, 2019 6:08AM EST
Last Updated Friday, February 1, 2019 6:49PM EST
Mayor John Tory says that the city is committed to doing “whatever it takes” to rebuild a Scarborough recreation centre in the wake of a massive fire that has now been burning for about 20 hours.
Tory made the comment to reporters on Friday afternoon as crews continued to put out hotspots at the Agincourt Recreation Centre.
He said that while the damage to the building is likely to be extensive, the property is insured with a $5 million deductible and will be rebuilt.
In the interim, he said that staff are already "hard at work" in trying to relocate some of the recreational programs held at the centre to other nearby facilities.
"We will be able to replace whatever needs to be replaced and get this place back up and running but it is not something we will be able to do immediately," he said.
Firefighters were first dispatched to the scene near Sheppard and Midland avenues at around 4:45 p.m. on Thursday.
The fire was originally called in as a one-alarm event but it quickly escalated and by 7:30 p.m. a four-alarm response was needed.
Because the bulk of the fire was present in the roof above a swimming pool, crews were unable to enter the premises and attack it from underneath and had to conduct an exterior attack.
Firefighters remained on scene all night battling the blaze, getting occasional breaks in TTC and EMS buses that were brought to the scene to provide shelter amid the extreme cold.
Just before 5 a.m. Toronto Fire officially deemed the blaze under control but a three-alarm response remains in place as crews put out hotspots.
A new shift of firefighters was brought in at around 8 a.m. to relieve those who battled the blaze overnight.
A heat-sensing drone owned by the Toronto police has also been brought in to assist with firefighting operations.
“It is a very tough to get at fire. It is in the roof structure and we have been chasing it all across the roof all night,” Deputy Chief Mike McCoy told CP24 at the scene earlier in the day. “It is just a very stubborn fire. I haven’t seen a fire this stubborn in a long, long time.”
Several trucks have become inoperable in extreme cold
Fire Chief Matthew Pegg told reporters on Friday morning that there are about 14 inches of roofing and insulation materials, which have made it “almost impossible” for crews to get at the seat of the fire.
He said that heavy equipment is currently on scene and is likely to be used “for the purpose of taking the roof apart” so that crews can gain access to the remaining fire.
Meanwhile, the extreme cold conditions have created some issues for firefighters.
Pegg said an aerial truck became “encrusted in ice” overnight and had to be pulled out of service while it thawed. It was replaced by another aerial truck, Pegg said. Several other fire trucks have also frozen up and have likewise been pulled from the scene.
“With the amount of ice we have building, everything we use is immediately freezing. As soon as they shut a hose line off, its freezing,” Pegg explained.
Pegg said that it is too early to speculate about the damage caused by the fire, though he said that it will certainly be “extensive.”
He said that it is his expectation that crews will be needed for at least the rest of today as they engage in the labour-intensive work of dismantling the roof to get at the seat of the fire.
Officials from the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal are on scene but will not be able to begin their investigation until the fire is fully extinguished, Pegg said.
“We are literally having to go piece by piece by piece,” he said. “It’s very frustrating and very challenging.”
Centre is closed until further notice
The Agincourt Recreation Centre is home to both a pool and an indoor rink, though officials have said that the fire has not spread to the rink and is unlikely to.
The centre is also home to a number of local clubs and programs, including the Agincourt Lions Club, the Agincourt Lawnbowling Club and the Agincourt Tennis Club
“This facility sees about 3,000 registrations for winter programming alone. More than 400 programs and courses are offered at this facility. Needless to say, it is closed until further notice,” city spokesperson Brad Ross told reporters at the scene on Friday morning.
Mayor John Tory is expected to visit the scene shortly after 1 p.m. to receive an update from officials and personally thank firefighters.
In a message posted to Twitter late Thursday night, he offered his “continuing thanks” to firefighters for their work battling the blaze in the extreme cold.
Students at Sir Alexander Mackenzie Senior Public School, which is next door to the recreation centre, will be relocated to Agincourt Collegiate Institute Friday due to the fire. Students at St. Bartholomew Catholic School, which is also nearby, will be relocated to St. Ignatius of Loyola Secondary School.