Toronto Star Article: Canadian Figure Skating Champion Kurt Browning Burns Down His Forest Hill Mansion!
Kurt Browning’s Forest Hill home damaged in fire
Firefighters battle a blaze at the Forest Hill home of figure skater Kurt Browning and his wife, Sonia Rodriguez, a principal dancer with the National Ballet, on Aug 18, 2010.
RICK MADONIK/TORONTO STAR
It began with a Porsche convertible that had been left out in the rain and a failed attempt to dry the seat with a leaf blower on Wednesday morning.
The resulting three-alarm fire sent flames through the roof of the Forest Hill mansion, brought 80 firefighters and at least 10 fire trucks to the scene and cost figure skater Kurt Browning and his ballet dancer wife Sonia Rodriguez the contents of their home.
“We’re dealing with a bit of a crisis here,” an obviously rattled Browning told the Star. “It’s family time right now.”
Neighbour Mike Markovic said he ran out of his house when he heard the commotion and saw half the house on fire and a bare-foot Browning standing outside.
“There were popping sounds,” he said. “I saw Kurt on the other side of the road, he looked like he had just run out of the house. He was not wearing shoes.”
Toronto police were first alerted to the fire at Browning’s Forest Hill home on Forest Hill Rd. at Larratt St., just before 11 a.m., said Toronto police Staff Sgt. Scott Spratt.
Firefighters evacuated the home and assumed a defensive position at around 11:45 a.m., when the fire broke through the roof, said Toronto Fire spokesman Capt. Mike Strapko.
“There are no firefighters inside the house because it could be structurally unsound,” he said.
Toronto Fire North Division Commander Bob O’Hallarn said the blaze started when a leaf blower was left unattended in the mansion’s garage. A man, whom fire officials would only identify as the homeowner, had been using it to dry the seats of a Porsche convertible that had gotten wet from rain.
O’Hallarn said when he discovered the fire, “he ran to get the extinguisher and tried to put it out, but by the time our crews arrived, it had spread into the house.”
In addition to Browning, one of his children and a painter were in the house when the fire started. Rodriguez, a principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada, was at National Ballet headquarters on Jarvis St. Wednesday morning, but left as soon as she learned of the fire.
Browning, Rodriguez and their two sons, Gabriel and Dillon, are all fine, said Barb McDonald, director of corporate communications for Skate Canada.
No injuries were reported, and “even the pets apparently are safe,” said O’Hallarn
A friend said the family is doing as well as could be expected after losing almost all their possessions.
The damage to the house, however, is “extensive” and will probably cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair. “Nobody will be living in this house for a period of time,” said O’Hallarn.
John Mordy, who watched the scene from a nearby lawn with his dog, lives next door to Browning’s property and was sleeping when his sister-in-law alerted him. When he got out of his house, he saw a “20-foot” flame coming from the neighbouring garage. Mordy said firefighters had also sprayed his house with water to prevent the fire from spreading.
Browning, 44, has won gold four times at the World Figure Skating Championships and represented Canada at three Winter Olympics. Rodriguez has danced principal roles in National Ballet performances of Swan Lake and Giselle, and performed with companies all over the world.
With files from Wendy Gillis