Fallon Hewitt – Spectator Reporter
Hamilton police say a man killed in a Westdale house fire On Wednesday evening, we “thought we were crouching” on the vacant property.
In an email to The Spectator, police spokesperson Jackie Penman also confirmed that the victim, who was in his 20s, was not a student at McMaster University.
The Traymore Avenue fire is being investigated by the Office of the Fire Marshal (OFM) as well as Hamilton Police.
Hamilton Fire Department Chief Dave Cunliffe said crews were called to a structure fire on Traymore, between Forsyth and Dalewood avenues, just after 8 p.m. Wednesday.
Cunliffe said firefighters arriving on the scene could see flames on the second floor of the house at 111 Traymore, just east of McMaster University. Crews performed a search and rescue and worked to extinguish the fire.
Cunliffe said firefighters searching the house encountered “heavy fire”, as well as a hole in the ground on the second level. During the search, they located a man inside the house with no vital signs.
The man was taken to hospital, where he later died of his injuries, Cunliffe added.
In a statement Friday, OFM spokesman Sean Driscoll said the investigation into the fire was still in its early stages, noting that “it would be premature to speculate on the causes for the moment”.
However, the fatal blaze comes amid a series of other fires on nearby properties, which belong to McMaster University and are due to be demolished to make way for a new student residence.
According to the Hamilton Fire Department Incidents Twitter feed, crews were also called in to structure fires on the same block on September 24 and 10. The cause of these fires is unclear.
In an earlier statement, spokesman Wade Hemsworth confirmed the other fires were “small fires” and the properties were subsequently secured.
In a statement Friday, spokeswoman Michelle Donovan said there have been “a number of instances” where intruders have broken into property “despite daily patrols by our security services and enforcement measures. courses such as fences and fence repairs to keep people out”.
A street resident previously told The Spectator that properties were a hotspot for both drug use and squatting.
Donovan said when security locates an intruder on the site, they are “immediately evicted” from the premises by workers and sometimes the police are called in to respond to the incidents.
Hemsworth said properties were checked by security guards every shift and any “property security issues” were supposed to be escalated to a property management company that oversees the site.
Hemsworth said the company is “responsible for maintaining the site and promptly carrying out any repairs to ensure the site continues to be secure.”
However, Traymore Avenue resident Jaime Ciere told The Spectator she’s only seen security checking the property on average “three or four times” a month. She has been living on the streets since spring 2021.
Ciere said she had not noticed any activity around the properties in recent days and wondered how the person had not been located before the fire on Wednesday evening as construction crews began disconnecting the power lines.
Donovan said the university had “long expressed” the need to demolish the houses, “which will be the best way to address security concerns.”
She noted that work to disconnect utility lines was completed on Thursday and demolition of homes should “begin as soon as possible.”