|(JOHN HANLEY/Special to QMI Agency)
TORONTO - Firefighters are battling a three-alarm blaze at Canadian figure skater Kurt Browning's Forest Hill mansion.
Toronto Fire north division commander Bob O'Hallarn said it appears someone was using a leaf blower to dry the seats of a convertible auto parked in the garage.
The leaf blower was apparently left unattended and when the homeowner returned he found the car in flames, O'Hallarn said.
O'Hallarn said Browning was in the home with a son and a house painter when the fire broke out.
Emergency crews were dispatched to the scene around 11 a.m. Wednesday.
O'Hallarn said Browning grabbed an extinguisher and tried to douse the flames but by the time firefighters arrived, flames had spread into the house.
Within 28 minutes of arriving, firefighters called in a third alarm. At the height of the fire, there were about 80 firefighters at the scene.
Firefighters prepared to battle the blaze on the second storey of the mansion when they were forced to retreat.
"We were trying to extinguish it and the fire flashed over," O'Hallarn said. "Obviously, it was very dangerous."
He said a flash over is caused when gases in an enclosed area become super hot and then suddenly burst into flames when exposed to air.
The fire ball travels along the ceiling but it poses an extreme danger for firefighters below the flames.
O'Hallarn said there were firefighters in harm's way on the second floor when the fire flashed over. It was then that firefighters decided to send the crews out of the house and fight the blaze defensively.
At one point, the roof collapsed.
O'Halarn said the house will most likely not have to be torn down, but it will need extensive renovations.
"I have no idea what caused the fire, I mean it might be the leaf blower. I would suggest any time you use any type of electric device like that," don't leave it unattended, he said.
Next-door neighbour Peter Mordy said he was sitting in his backyard when he smelled an acrid odour.
"So I came out to the front and I saw that Kurt Browning was there and he was on his cellphone calling it in," Mordy said.
"The flames were coming from the garage," Mordy said. "They were licking up the front ... the alarm went off" in the Porsche that was in the garage.
Mordy said that was followed by sounds of tires exploding.
"It's pretty scary. The first thing I asked Kurt was if everybody was out of the house," Mordy said.
Alberta-born Browning is a four-time world champion figure skater and four-time Canadian national champion. He is married to Sonia Rodriguez, a principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada. The couple live at the house with their two sons and a nanny.