Sprinklers would have changed outcome of fatal public housing blaze: fire marshal
TORONTO – A deadly fire at a public housing complex might have turned out differently if the five-storey building was equipped throughout with sprinklers, investigators said Saturday.
Three people died and another 12 were hospitalized after blaze ripped through the top floor of the building at 1315 Neilson Road Friday.
On Saturday, investigators pointed to several safety issues that might have contributed to the lethality of the fire, including a lack of sprinklers.
Ontario Fire Marshal Investigator James Allen explained the residence was compliant with provincial building code standards, but since it was constructed before 2007, it was not legally required to have sprinklers throughout.
“There’s no doubt in our mind that had sprinklers been installed to today’s standards, the outcome would have been different,” Allen said.
While the building housed a high number of seniors, it was not technically classified as a seniors’ residence, resulting in less-stringent fire safety standards.
In the Ontario Fire Code, “homes for the aged” and “rest homes” are regulated as health care facilities, like hospitals. They have a higher standard of safety than a traditional house or apartment building.
But officers from the Toronto Fire department said that this building was not legislated as a senior’s home, despite being advertised as a “senior’s lifestyle suite” and only being available to people aged 59 and over. Because the province doesn’t consider the building a senior’s home, it was not subject to provincially-mandated fire code inspections, fire officials say.
Deputy Fire Chief Jim Jessop said the building’s corridors may have been partially blocked by burning polyurethane furniture, which spewed a toxic black smoke.
Allen said the fire began in a common area in the building’s east wing, but said investigators are still working to determine the cause and are looking for any fire code violations.
Jessop said the building was last inspected in 2013, and that there is no mandated frequency for such safety inspections, although Toronto Fire Chief Jim Sales “is moving towards” such a goal.
Mayor John Tory released a statement Saturday expressing his condolences and voicing a hope for improved safety measures for residents like those at Neilson Road.
“I hope we can learn any possible lessons as to how people, especially those more vulnerable, can be better protected in circumstances such as this,” he said.
With files from Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press
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