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9 of the week’s best long reads from the Star, Dec. 11 to 17, 2021

From a terrifying fire in the sky to a “billion dollar scam” in the trucking industry, we’ve selected some of the best long reads of the week on

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1. ‘Mayday, mayday … I’m out of air’: How a terrifying blaze at 200 Wellesley brought a fire crew to its knees — and changed the way Toronto fights highrise fires forever

Firefighter Brent Brooks was in the stairwell of a burning highrise when a member of his crew staggered down from the 24th floor. The man was retreating from a blaze so fierce that the water being used to fight it was boiling in the hallway. His face was black with soot. He had wrenched off his breathing apparatus. He dropped to his hands and knees, gasping for clean air close to ground.

He was trying to tell Brooks that two firefighters on the fire floor two storeys above them were running out of air and needed to be rescued. But he had inhaled so much smoke he couldn’t speak.

“We knew something horrible was going on,” said Brooks, whose job that day was to keep track of the incoming crews and their assignments, a job rendered so complex by the crews of firefighters pouring in to respond to the six-alarm fire that Brooks tossed aside his clipboard and began keeping track on a wall.

On the day of that fire at 200 Wellesley St. E., in September 2010, Brooks had been a Toronto firefighter for…

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