Two homes and a car were doused with gasoline around the site of a suspicious three-alarm fire Tuesday morning in Toronto’s east end, police say.

The fire broke out just after 6 a.m. at a house under construction at 141 Byng Ave., near Pharmacy and Danforth avenues. The flames spread and damaged three other homes. Crews managed to get the upper hand on the blaze about an hour later.

“It was a lot of fire all at once, and the crews did a great job of getting the fire under control in a hurry so it didn’t go any further,” Toronto Fire District Chief Bill Boyd said.

Police asked residents in the area to check their properties for anything suspicious.

Some residents around the Byng fire believe arson may be the cause and claim gasoline was poured around the affected homes.

A man in his late 20s or early 30s, said to be a person of interest, was taken into custody for questioning after the fire on Byng. Thomas Nicholson has since been released.

“They took every stitch of clothes off of me and I said, ‘Test it buddy,’” said Nicholson, who lives behind the home that was destroyed in the fire. “They swabbed my face. They swabbed everything.”

Police say Nicholson, who has 45 convictions, remains a person of interest.

Resident Chris Campbell said it was scary.

“I opened the door and there was 100-foot wall of flames.  I yelled for my wife, ‘Get out of the bed. Get Mia,’ our daughter.”

His vehicle was also doused with what he believes was gasoline but he only noticed it when he tried to drive to a safer location.

“I’m angry ’cause now you’re messing with my daughter,” he said.

An investigator from the Ontario fire marshal’s office collected evidence and will test the liquid that residents say was gasoline. Damage estimates were pegged at about $1 million.

The fire happened near Oakridge Junior Public School, but classes there weren’t affected.

Four hours before the Byng fire, firefighters were called out to douse another three-alarm fire at a house on Keele Street, near Humberside Avenue.

The flames apparently started on a back deck, spread to the roof and then to a neighbouring home. A TTC bus driver first spotted the fire and called 911 around 2 a.m. A passerby also noticed the flames and called for help.

The fire prompted authorities to close Keele Street in both directions between Glenlake Avenue and Annette Street. The area reopened just after 7:30 a.m.

And a large fire erupted at a Canadian Tire at Eglinton Avenue East and Laird Drive in Leaside around 5 p.m. Monday. The blaze started in the store’s home garden centre. Crews managed to extinguish the fire by 6:30 p.m.

There’s no word yet on the causes of the fires. No damage estimates were provided in those fires.
“It pulls a lot of resources, at least 13 apparatus, at a third-alarm fire [and] over 50 firefighters at each of these locations,” Toronto Fire District Chief Stephan Powell told Breakfast Television.