Toronto School Fire Raises Asbestos Concerns

A recent six-alarm blaze in a school shocked Toronto and made headlines across the GTA recently, and it looks like the damage may not be over – with asbestos now a potential risk.

Fire at York Memorial C.I.
Like many schools in the Toronto District and other area school boards, York Memorial C.I. was an old building – about 90 years old to be exact. Given the fact it was built, and spent the first several decades of its existence, during a period when asbestos was considerd a miracle construction material, it’s no surprise that it did contain the dangerous mineral.

Fire crews had already visited the building once on the evening of May 7 to tackle a three-alarm fire, only to be called back a few hours later when the blaze returned with a vengeance. About 150 firefighters were involved at the fire’s peak, with heavy black smoke engulfing the neighbourhood along Eglinton between Tretheway and Bicknell in the city’s west end. Many people were evacuated until the fire was brought under control.

While the asbestos and any asbestos containing materials are intact, they are considered safe. However, the huge fire that damaged large portions of the building has disturbed asbestos, which complicates the clean up and rehabilitation process. Asbetsos is fire resistant, however the fire would have destroyed any other materials or structures around it, creating asbestos dust which can be breathed into the lungs.

After a fire in a public building like a school, officials look at whether the structure should be repaired or razed and built again. So far, Toronto fire department officials are optimistic that much of the building can be saved, and are trying to determine the cause.

Ontario Fire Marshal investigator Bryan Fischer commented to CTV reporters.

“The building was built in the 1920s. Asbestos was used in all sorts of building materials. Now it’s been disturbed. It’s in a dust form and it becomes friable and it’s a huge risk to anyone working inside.” He said the rest of the neighbourhood does not have to worry about contamination spreading, however. “Nothing was blown into the atmosphere,” he said.

Old, Intact, Safe – or Not?
It’s true that older homes and buildings containing asbestos are considered safe for habitation as long as the materials in question are intact and undisturbed. However, fires are not the only way that damage – and friable asbestos – may be produced.

  • Renovations that cut into the walls;
  • Renovating popcorn ceilings;
  • Changing old pipe or attic insulation;
  • Installing home security or home theatre systems;
  • Damage from flooding.

The only way to be truly safe is to have the asbestos removed.

Safe, not sorry
If you have asbestos anywhere in your home, let us help with the next step: asbestos removal. Our experienced and certified asbestos removal and asbestos remediation technicians can help keep you and your family safe. In the Toronto area call Environmental at (416) 818-9414. Contact us for a quote today.

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