A confidential report on the York Memorial School fires of May 6th and 7th has been completed by the Ontario Fire Marshal based on investigations into the cause of the blaze that devastated the historic structure. The public will not see it for some time but a copy is now in the hands of Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg.
A spokesperson for the OFM said yesterday that the fire was one event and was accidental in nature.
“This was a single-event fire originating within the wall cavities of the structure in the area of the school auditorium,”
Once the statement was released it was clear that was to be no further comment from any involved parties until more information is available. The Toronto District School Board is scrambling to make the former Scarlett Heights Academy available for the approximately 1000 students and staff on September 3rd and would not comment.
Statement from City of Toronto’s Fire Chief
Earlier today, the Ontario Office of the Fire Marshal provided me with a copy of the Confidential Fire Investigation Report for the May 2019 fire at the York Memorial Collegiate Institute, located at 2690 Eglinton Avenue West.
Our team will review this fire investigation report in detail in order to gain a full understanding as to the origin, cause and circumstance analysis that has been completed and determinations that have been reached by the Ontario Office of the Fire Marshal.
Toronto Fire Services will not comment further on the report until we have had the opportunity to review it fully.
Readers may remember that Chief Pegg at the time called the May 7th blaze, ‘Separate and distinct’. While it’s now clear that there was one cause and that it was accidental (which is some good news at least), the statement has reporters and members of the public examining the chicken entrails in order to tease out more information. These troubling questions remain unanswered:
If this was a single fire that managed to smoulder overnight and re-emerge the following afternoon, who was responsible?
Was the Toronto Fire Department at fault in not killing the fire on May 6th?
Should there have been TDSB or TFD personnel on fire watch overnight at the school?
Why did Chief Pegg say there were two separate and distinct fires?
Can the school be saved or will it have to be demolished?
What about other old schools in Toronto – are students at risk?
No doubt there is much to be learned from the fire. Let’s hope the report and its recommendations can be released soon so that these and other questions can be answered.
After the devastating fire(s) at York Memorial C.I., students have been accommodated in empty space at nearby George Harvey C.I. Despite the convenience of the temporary accommodation being so close, Memo students apparently weren’t happy sharing and so beginning in September, they will be moving to the former Scarlett Heights Academy at 15 Trehorne Drive in Etobicoke. This will be an added commute for the thousand or so staff and students but the school was empty and apart from repairs for some water damage, should be ready in September.
Walking that distance takes over an hour and cycling is too dangerous given our lack of cycle lanes. What this will do to Weston’s traffic and transit remains to be seen but fast food outlets in the Royal York Plaza will no doubt be pleased.
Alan Tonks is raising money to help rebuild York Memorial, after the damaging fires of a few weeks ago. So far, the campaign has raised more than $18,000 of a $25,000 goal.
The school Motto has been “Macte Nova Virture” (Go Forth With New Strength). With the strength of our community, city, and our York Memorial Alumni we want to preserve the heritage of the school that was built in honour of the soldiers who lost their lives fighting for our country. Whatever the “new” York Memorial may look like we want to raise funds to persevere, restore or recreate the history in these significant works of art.
A second, devastating fire has gutted the main, 90 year-old building of York Memorial C.I.. A huge plume of smoke was seen over the old City of York today, 24 hours after a smaller fire was discovered and extinguished.
Staff and students had been spending the day at George Harvey C.I. on Keele but were sent home after smoke from the fire hit dangerous levels. Fire Chief Matthew Pegg described the damage to the 90 year-old school as major but believes that the more recent additions containing the library and pool can be saved. Chief Pegg called today’s fire ‘separate and distinct’ and ordered the use of foam in order to suppress and starve the fire. He stated that a 6-alarm fire response is almost unprecedented in Toronto’s history.
High smoke levels were experienced south of Eglinton from Trethewey to Bicknell and firefighters went door to door advising residents to leave.
After yesterday’s fire, a security team was left behind to monitor the building but somehow, a different fire began today.
According to 12 Division’s Superintendent Ron Taverner the first fire was thought of as suspicious – he would not speculate on the probable cause of the second.
This month, the school was set to celebrate the 90th anniversary of its opening in 1929 as a memorial to soldiers who fought in the First World War. The building is currently home to 900 students (none of whom were in attendance today) and contains many artifacts and unique structures. These are feared to be lost as a result of the blaze.
Councillor Frances Nunziata was at the fire scene along with Mayor Tory. Nunziata said that she hopes that the school can be rebuilt inside while salvaging whatever is left. She said there will need to be a lot of healing in the next few months.
The only good result from today is that there were zero casualties.