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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

3 firefighters injured in Mississauga blaze

MISSISSAUGA - Three firefighters suffered serious injuries when they battered by debris from an explosion at a storage facility early Wednesday.
Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services responded around 4:45 a.m. to what was initially thought to be just alarms going off at the industrial building on Thamesgate Dr., southwest of Airport Rd. and Steeles Ave.
But the call quickly became anything but routine.
“They were just entering the building when the explosion happened,” Chief John McDougall said Wednesday.
He said the unexpected blast sent the three firefighters flying backward through the air and the trio was hit by bricks, concrete blocks and other building materials.
One firefighter, who was rushed to St. Mike’s hospital in Toronto, was initially listed in critical condition but has since been upgraded to serious condition, McDougall said.
“He’s conscious and talking, so that’s good news,” the chief said, adding the firefighter will likely need surgery to repair broken bones.
Platoon Chief Mark Ormond and other firefighters were at St. Mike’s Wednesday to “support” their badly injured colleague.
“It’s stressful for everybody involved, that’s for sure,” he said.
McDougall said the other two injured firefighters, who are in Etobicoke and Brampton hospitals, are also surrounded by colleagues and all three have all been in touch with their families.
One was undergoing surgery late Wednesday morning to repair a broken femur.
The chief visited the third firefighter and said he was in a lot of pain and undergoing tests to determine what bones are broken.
“He told me he was blown back by the explosion, but he had no idea how far,” McDougall said.
The blast also “demolished” a fire truck.
"The windows were all smashed out and it looks like it has been in a war,” the chief said. “If it did that to a fire truck, you can imagine what it did to the firefighters.”
He said all three firefighters are expected to survive, but they each have a long road to recovery ahead.
A fourth firefighter suffered smoke inhalation while rushing to the rescue of his three fallen comrades. McDougall said he’ll be fine.
Area residents who were awakened by the blast say the explosion was one of many that erupted over several hours.
Caspar Schiweck, 35, ran outside to see what was happening and said, “It looked like my backyard was on fire.”
He lives just east of Airport Rd., so the fire was actually across the street.
“It was just a massive inferno,” Schiweck said. “The flames were just way above the power lines.”
“There were explosions and big balls of fire were erupting as well,” he added.
The fire chief said one of those balls of fire is thought to have sparked a secondary fire at an industrial building “down the street.”
It took firefighters a couple of hours to get the blaze at the storage facility under control. But they continued to dump water on the still smouldering ruins of the building, which housed butane lighters and aerosol cans, possibly containing bug spray, among an assortment of other items.
A warning was issued notifying area residents to keep their windows closed “as a precaution” even though there was initially no concern about toxicity.
Ministry of the Environment workers at the scene said the water that was dumped on the burning building is now being pumped out of area sewers.
Hydro crews are also at the scene because of the close proximity of power lines to the storage facility.
The cause of the fire has not yet been determined but investigators from the Ontario Fire Marshal’ office are at the scene waiting to get in and poke around the charred remnants of the building.
“We’re still putting water on it and it will be a while before it cools down enough for anyone to get in there and have a look,” McDougall said.
A section of Airport Rd., from Morning Star dr. to Steeles Ave. E., remains closed off.
Meanwhile, Mississauga’s mayor has issued a statement saying the city’s “thoughts and prayers are with the firefighters and their families.”
“We are grateful for all emergency services personnel who are on site,” Hazel McCallion said.
— With files from Maryam Shah
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