Arson destroys Gerrard garages

[attach]1976[/attach]Police are asking neighbours around Gerrard and Pape to be extra vigilant in backyard laneways following a string of garage arsons July 14.

“We’re asking people who live in the neighbourhood to be extra careful,” Constable Tony Vella said. “We’re also encouraging people to close and lock their garage doors. An open door will assist that criminal.”

Police, who are investigating the arsons along with the Office of the Fire Marshal, believe that an individual or a group set the three fires within a 17-minute time span just after 4 a.m.

Two of the garages, at and near 1180 Gerrard St. East, were destroyed along with their contents, which included vehicles. Toronto Fire Services estimates the damage to the garages at between $100,000 and $150,000.

Surrounding homes were evacuated just before dawn as fire crews fought to put out the flames. Just down the street at 50 Austin Ave., a husband and father of four fought his own garage fire with a garden hose.

“I saw my husband and my daughter out there in this smoke-filled garage,” Gayle Bomers said. “I was very upset. “I thought they were going to be overcome by smoke inhalation or something.”

Her husband, Maarten, had bolted out of bed after smelling smoke. He phoned 911 and grabbed the hose.

“I couldn’t understand why the fire wheels weren’t there right away,” Gayle said. “Though I guess when you’re in an emergency everything feels like it takes a long time.”

But the delay turned out to be no matter: Maarten and his garden hose took care of business.

Or, make that Gayle’s garden hose.

“We just had our 28th wedding anniversary on July 3, and he laughingly said, ‘Oh I got you a new hose’,” said Gayle, who had requested a new hose long enough to reach the garage so she could wash the floor.

“Because of that hose, he was able to put (out the fire),” Gayle said. “It was just long enough.”

The damage to their garage turned out to be minimal, with only a single corner being “burned out,” as Gayle described it.

As surreal as the pre-dawn chaos was for the Bomers family, the morning just got weirder as the sun came up.

Fire services arrived just as husband Maarten was finishing extinguishing the flames in the backyard but because of the configuration of the laneway behind their house, they were unable to get the trucks back there.

“The fire department has to go right though our house,” said Gayle. “My three daughters are sitting in the living room just watching the fire department going through our house,” Gayle said with a laugh.

The oddness continued when fire services accidentally left behind a large axe. As Maarten went to return the axe to the local fire station, he noticed that the car he’d moved out of his burning garage earlier that morning had gotten a ticket.

“I thought that was pretty apropos around here. Your garage is on fire and you’re trying to save your car and you still get a parking ticket,” Gayle said.

Toronto Police Services (who took care of the ticket for the Bomers family later that morning) are currently looking for leads from the public. Anyone who has any information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 416-222-TIPS.