Categories News

Investigation into blaze that destroyed Ward’s Island clubhouse could take months

It will likely take weeks, and possibly even months, before fire investigators are able to make a determination as to why a beloved historic clubhouse on Ward’s Island went up in flames over the weekend.

“A total loss fire presents challenges. However, the team is trained to look at fire patterns and look at ignition sources,” Deputy Fire Chief Larry Cocco told reporters at the scene Monday. “It makes it more difficult but it’s not impossible.”

Cocco spoke as heavy equipment was used to sort through the wreckage and debris behind him, all that remains of a building that was erected in 1938.

“Depending on the course of the investigation, we take weeks or even months if we have to take samples and send them away to the lab,” Cocco said. “Every investigation is unique. Unfortunately, we don’t do an investigation in 30 minutes and have a conclusion. It takes time. They have to gather all the data, interview witnesses, assess the information and do the analysis.”

He said there’s no evidence so far to indicate an explosion.

The fire broke out around 2:20 a.m. Sunday and quickly engulfed the building. Extra fire resources had to be shipped over from the mainland to fight the blaze. However the city said Monday that on-site firefighting equipment was up-to-date and had been inspected as recently as November. 

“The City can confirm that Toronto Water conducts two inspections a year on all hydrants in the city. Specifically on Ward’s Island, the last inspection was November 27, 2023, with no issues found,” a city spokesperson said in a statement to CTV News Toronto.

“The watermain was installed in 1950 and had a cement mortar lining added to the inside of the pipe in 1995. The current static pressure in the main is well within the standard operating range and can be considered above the median standard.”

Whatever the cause, the local community said in a statement Monday that the loss of the clubhouse, which hosted countless weddings and other celebrations, is “devastating.”

“As the shock wears off and reality sets in, the community will mourn this loss as one would a cherished family home,” said Alison Rogers, chair of the Toronto Islands Residential Community Trust Corporation. “Our kids all grow up in the shadow of the clubhouse. They eat ice cream from the cafe and play in the courtyard – loudly- while the community meets inside to plan, discuss, report and solve problems.

“The clubhouse building was much more than a historic Island landmark and restaurant. It was the heart and hub of the Island community but, rest assured, that heart has not stopped beating. This community is resilient and resourceful and this blackened charred land will host our dances, meetings, celebrations, memorials, circus camps and bingo nights again soon enough.”

She said the group “will not speculate” on either the cause of the fire or the response until they receive a full report as promised by Chief Matthew Pegg.

The statement went on to thank the firefighters who contained the blaze and kept it from spreading as well as community members who alerted others to the danger.

Rogers said the trust and the community will decide together how to proceed with the site once it has been released.

Investigators are expected to remain on site for at least another day or so.

– With files from CTV News Toronto Reporter Beth Macdonell