Residents living in a North York community shaken by multiple explosions early Sunday morning say they feared for their lives when they looked out the window and saw giant fireballs light up the night sky.

Jeff Veillette said he thought his life was over when he saw what he described as a "tidal wave" of fire heading his way.

"All of a sudden, this big gush of grey stuff came up and it ignited. When it ignited, it was like a tidal wave with fire," he told CTV Newsnet. "You could feel the heat coming at you, it was amazing, right out of a movie. I couldn't believe it.."

Veillette said he was watching TV when his entire house trembled. The shaking was so strong, he thought a car crashed into his home. When he went outside to investigate, he and his neighbour noticed a grey plume of smoke. When it exploded into a massive fire ball, people on his street began to run but Veillette, feeling helpless, stayed put.

"It was very intense," he said. "I've got a really bad back, I can't run. When everyone started to turn around and run, I thought, 'Oh great, I'm going to get swallowed by a fire ball because I can't run."

A man who lives in the area said he was slightly injured as he tried to get away from the scene of the blast. In total, about eight people were injured. One person suffered a broken ankle when he fell trying to evacuate his home.

A fire official confirmed late Sunday afternoon that a firefighter on the scene had died, though few other details on the death were provided. One person remains unaccounted for.

The force of the blast caused extensive damage to parked cars, trees and homes as many of them had their doors and windows completely blown out. Residents likened the sounds of the explosion to what you would hear in a war zone.

One woman who lives in the neighbourhood said she couldn't believe her eyes when she saw the fire rage out of control.

"It just kept exploding and exploding and exploding," she said.

An army colonel who was asleep at the Canadian Forces reserve station in Downsview was injured when the blast caused debris to fall on his head.

He said he felt the heat and saw the whole area "light up like daytime" with thundering explosions.

"I just wanted to run as fast as I could," he said. "I jumped over the fence and just kept running."

Veillette said he watched the fireballs in awe.

"You should have seen the size of this thing. I would say they were about 1,000-feet high," he said. "It's so hard to describe."