The following first person account was submitted by Jeremy Reigber. Photographs by Mykhail Baehr: Click on any image to see the full size photograph.
Walking in the front door and you turn your radio on and you hear that relay pumping is required, all you can think is that this will be a long call. I just went straight into responding mode, we haven’t been requested yet but you knew it was just a matter of when. Every time you hear “Toronto Fire, Chief 20” you get excited, you think the next radio transmission will be requesting Support 7 and then its go time. But sadly you keep hearing other fire ground issues being discussed. Talking about the water relay and shutting down the CN Rail, having police attend to act as traffic control. When Toronto fire arrived they realized that there was no fire hydrants close to the fire. They had to start to shuttle water in via a Tanker.
And then it came…
Chief 20: Toronto Fire, Sewells Command.
Dispatch: Go ahead Sewells Command.
Chief 20: Can you contact Pickering Fire please, we will take as many tankers as they can supply.
Dispatch:Roger Sewells Command.
Chief 20: Also Toronto Fire, Chief 20, requesting Support 7.
Dispatch: Roger Chief 20.
And its go time ! I grabbed the car keys and my portable and jumped in the car!When I arrived on scene there was visible flames. Toronto fire was still having issues finding a steadywater source as water hydrants were not easy to find. They had no choice but to set up one of the longest water relays in the departments history. 16 trucks were used to pump water from the hydrant and Strains road and Steeles to the fire scene at Sewells road and Steeles. On route to the fire my radio was going off like crazy. Sewells command kept asking for more apparatus to attend as they didn’t have enough for the water relay. They were bringing fire trucks in from the north and the south divisions. Toronto Fire had:
16 Pumper trucks (P211, P242, P234, P245, P232, P212, P233, P221, P223, P114, P244, P116, P324, P123, P222, P111)
6 Rescue trucks (R214, R241, R235, R225, R321, R224)
3 Aerial trucks (A213, A244, A215)
1 Squad (S232)
1 Hazardous Materials Unit (HZ145)
1 Tower (T114)
2 Command units (CMD10, CMD30)
6 Tankers (Pickering Fire, Markham Fire, Stouffville Fire, Richmond Hill and Toronto Fire(WT211))
2 Air Light units (LA231, LA114)
1 Canteen Unit (SUP7)
12 Chiefs (C21, C24, C20, C23, C13, C30, C8, C1, C4, C7, C3)
2 Fire Investigation Units (FI3, FI6)
1 Mechanical Response Unit (MRU40)
For people who aren’t aware of the scene at Standard Auto Wreckers is just south of a CN rail line. With farm fields to the east, west and south. The only way in and out for the apparatus was to come south on Sewells crossing these tracks. This was a problem as we couldn’t lay supply lines over the live train tracks incase we had a CN train come by. Toronto fire with assistance from CN Rail found a solution to this as they dug a trench and put the supply line under the track. Toronto fire was notified of Ten thousand litres of gasoline inside the structure. Thinking it couldn’t get any worse the urgent tones go off, everyone on scene shuts up and listens to see what is about to be said. We all hear this ” URGENT URGENT URGENT All apparatus at Sewells road stay off the tracks as there is a approaching train. URGENT URGENT URGENT”. We look at its a long and when I mean long, CN train. To put it into focus, imagine a firefighter goes down or a crew needs something and they can’t get it for the next 10 minutes because we can’t get around this train. It was always a scary and tense moment when the train came by.
So as the slogan on our truck states “Serving the ones that protect us” we decided we needed to make sure the guys on those trucks were ok. We got a bag full of water and Gatorade and another bag of Granola bar. We jumped in one of the members Tahoe and we went driving down the relay line. I have never seen guys get so happy. We would pull up beside the high vol. hose line and you would see the truck doors open and the crews get out with big smiles on their faces! Truck by truck we went and said hi, chatted with the crew and made sure they were ok. Once Toronto Fire got the fire under control a majority of the buildings were burnt to the ground. It is now a game of finding all the hot spots and putting water on them. A long a tiring task but one that must be done to make sure the fire doesn’t reignite. Another amazing job done by the fine men and women of Toronto Fire. I am honoured to help and serve these men and women who keeps our city safe.