After spending just over 12 hours in the brutal cold, Toronto firefighters managed to get the massive fire at Agincourt Recreation Centre under control. Crews were first dispatched to the scene at just before 5:00 PM Thursday evening. But, what started as a one-alarm fire quickly became a four-alarm event, engulfing the rec centre in flames.
The blaze, which reportedly started in the building's mechanical room, proved to be relentless. What made it so challenging for firefighters to expose and extinguish the flames was the construction of the roof. Fire Chief Matthew Pegg told Global News that they had to get through "as much as 14 inches of material to expose the fire".
Not to mention the added challenge of extreme cold weather, which was causing the firefighters' equipment to freeze. "As soon as they shut a hose line off, it’s freezing. The air packs and the breathing apparatus the firefighters are wearing, the regulators are freezing," Pegg said this morning.
Pegg says that as the fire broke out, the building was immediately evacuated. Some of the people inside the building were using the swimming pool at the time, and had to evacuate in wet bathing suits.
A Toronto firefighter uses a pole to pull away burned roof material to gain access to smouldering structure underneath at Agincourt Recreation Centre. Fire crews have been on scene for over 15 hours in freezing conditions. pic.twitter.com/tEb0AgY5Qb— Kevin Misener (@Misener680NEWS) February 1, 2019
Firefighter perches on the tip of an ice encrusted ladder in a fog of smoke and steam. He uses a stick to pull pieces of roofing off the Agincourt Rec Centre. Beneath him, fire. pic.twitter.com/XR84suQQUq— Linda Ward (@LindaWardCBC) February 1, 2019
Thankfully, TTC buses and EMS vehicles were brought in to keep community centre visitors warm. The buses were stationed at the scene overnight to provide crew members with a place to rest and recover.
Awning of Agincourt Recreation Centre is encrusted in ice as Toronto firefighters continue to battle smouldering roof structure. Stubborn broke out at 4:45 yest afternoon. Luckily no injuries. pic.twitter.com/3VZNS9hI1W— Kevin Misener (@Misener680NEWS) February 1, 2019
Four-Alarm fire in Agincourt... -30C ... #TPFFA always doing a great job under horrible conditions... equipment and people freeze... nobody injured luckily... https://t.co/qQ01bCXV4e #TheTorontoSun pic.twitter.com/aOBG82RWnb— Jack Boland (@TorSunphoto21) February 1, 2019
WATCH: @Toronto_Fire Chief Matthew Pegg explains the heavy insulation and materials in the roof of the Agincourt Community Centre has made chasing the fire a challenge. @NEWSTALK1010 pic.twitter.com/CgUu1Fra9l— Lucas Meyer (@meyer_lucas) February 1, 2019
By 5:00 AM, firefighters finally declared the blaze under control. But, crews will remain on scene all day Friday to put out hotspots. No injuries have been reported, and students at the nearby Sir Alexander Mackenzie SPS have been relocated for the day.