Officer rescues elderly man from burning building

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 4 p.m. July 19, 2020

Without the assistance of a Toronto Police officer, who was the first responder on scene at a burning Scarborough home, an elderly man may have perished in a fire.

An elderly man with a cane, man in a police uniform, and a young woman, standing on the stairs in front of a house entrance
Const. Alex Yuanidis of 43 Division and Sugy Kodeeswaran with her dad

Const. Alex Yuanidis of 43 Division was very close to the home at 72 Blue Anchor Trail when the call came in on May 20 around 8 p.m.

“I know the area because I grew up close by and was aware of the home’s location,” he said. “When I got on the scene, there were a lot of people screaming and running around, saying people were trapped at the back.”

As Yuanidis ran towards the home, a fireball exploded at the north side of the residence.

“I decided to run to the other side where I saw a woman at the back panicking,” he recalled. “I also observed two men, one elderly and the other middle-aged, on the second floor deck who couldn’t get down because there were no stairs. The older man wanted to go back inside to get his walker, so I just screamed out for a ladder that a next door neighbour provided me with.”

Scaling the ladder, Yuanidis helped the younger of the two men climb over the railing.

“He came down the stairs and I went back up the 12-foot ladder to get the elderly man who couldn’t get over the railing,” the officer said. “I punched out the spindles of the railing in order to assist the elderly man down the ladder. His mobility was very limited and he needed assistance to get down. It was just luck that I was so close by and thankfully one of the neighbours had a ladder so that he had access to get to the ladder. I had to help him down so he could get to the ground and then rush out through the back yard before we were trapped.”

Yuanidis arrived on the scene nearly five minutes before the three-alarm fire and was able to get everyone out of the burning home and evacuate residents from three homes on either side of the house on fire.

Starting his policing career at 54 Division 15 years ago, the veteran officer doesn’t consider himself a hero.

“It was just luck that I was so close by and thank God that one of the neighbours had a ladder,” he added.

Family members are, however, convinced that Yuanidis’ quick thinking and courage saved their 85-year-old relative.

“Our father has a reputation for being quite stubborn, so we are aware of what this might have involved,” said Sugy Kodeeswaran. “In these uncertain times, it is clear who the heroes are in this society and they should be recognized.  Our family owes Officer Alex a great debt because he saved the patriarch of the family with three children, their partners and eight grandchildren. It is hard to put into words our immense gratitude and appreciation for his actions.  The whole family will forever be in his debt.”

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