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Video shows man dangling from balcony to escape Toronto high-rise fire

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Neighbours watched in disbelief and horror as a man dangled from a Scarborough high-rise balcony, let go and dropped a storey, then caught himself on the railing below to escape the flames burning through an adjacent apartment on Saturday.

Video from a resident of West Hill Apartments on Lawrence Ave. near Kingston Rd. and shared with CTV News Toronto shows the man on the fifth floor first take what appears to be the wheel of a bike to break through the chicken wire on the balcony.

“It was like something out of a movie,” Shane Greer recalled.

A tenant of the high-rise Toronto Community Housing residence, Greer says he wasn’t sure of the danger when the fire alarm first sounded around 4 p.m. Saturday, as the alarms are often pulled as pranks in the building.

“I wasn't taking any chances,” Greer said. “I grabbed this dog, I ran like hell, down the hallway, down the stairs, out here to see how bad it was.”

Flames covered the walls of a unit on the fifth floor, and licked up the balcony to the floors above.

Ryan Richter was driving by. His partner Tiffany pulled out her phone to record the terrifying scene they were witnessing, taking the above video from the car.

“You could see like the roof, the walls, everything was engulfed in flame,” Richter said.

One resident of the building was pronounced dead at the scene. Five other residents were taken to hospital — one woman in her 60s sustained life-threatening injuries, according to Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg.

Firefighters are on the scene of a two-alarm fire that broke out in a unit at an apartment building near Kingston Road and Lawrence Avenue East. (Simon Sheehan/CP24)

The fifth-floor hallways have been left an ashy mess. Some residents of the building say they have no working stoves, and the elevator is now out of service while Fire Marshal investigators continue to piece together what happened.

“Fire inspectors said they’ll be here for the next two days, so obviously the elevators are going to be down, probably, until Wednesday morning,” said Bianca Hubbard, who lives on the 11th floor.

“While the investigation has only just begun, any determination of cause would be premature at this stage,” Sean Driscoll with the Office of the Fire Marshal said on Sunday, “however I can confirm that the fire started in, and was isolated to, a single unit.” 

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