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When a hurricane swept through Toronto, this firefighter made the heartbreaking first rescue attempt
Hurricane Hazel caused 81 deaths and more than $1B in damages in 2017 dollars

Boisvert, Nick

Publisher:  CBC
Date Written:  16/10/2017
Year Published:  2017  
Resource Type:  Article

On the wet and windy evening of Oct. 15, 1954, Hurricane Hazel was bearing down on the city. The fire department was to take no unnecessary risks in the storm, which had already claimed more than 400 lives in Haiti and close to 100 in the United States. As it spiralled towards Canada, Hazel merged with a cold front, intensifying the system.



With the storm on Toronto's doorstep, a crew of volunteer firefighters had descended the banks of the Humber River that night to rescue the occupants of a car that was being battered by waves. Soon after, they needed a rescue themselves.

"These guys were screaming for help," said Maxwell, who was 25 at the time.

After waiting for an OK from police, who were charged with leading emergency calls at the time, Maxwell's captain Jack Smith eventually decided they could wait no longer.

"Jack said, 'That's it we're going,'" he remembered.

Maxwell grew up swimming in the Humber, but when he and his crew arrived that night, he was met with a sight unlike anything he'd ever seen.

"The river should have been a couple thousand yards away from us," he recalled. "But it was up over the bank and now coming up the hill."


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