Deadly Quebec fire may lead to Ontario seniors homes getting sprinklers sooner

Watch the video above: Ontario government to review timeline for sprinklers after deadly Quebec fire. Alan Carter reports. 

TORONTO – The Ontario government may accelerate the installation of fire sprinklers in seniors homes across the province after a fire in Quebec left 5 people dead and 30 others missing.

“The tragedy in Quebec, I think everyone is saying, ‘Is there something more we should be doing?’ We have brought in regulations that will require sprinklers in all retirement homes and long-term care homes,” Health Minister Deb Mathews said Friday. “There is a phase-in period. And so I think we have to take another look to see if there’s anything we can do to accelerate that.”

The province is rebuilding older long-term care homes.  All new homes are required to have sprinklers.

There are currently about 700 retirement homes in Ontario housing approximately 40,000 seniors. Another 76,000 people live in 400 long-term care facilities and other homes for vulnerable residents across the province.

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Read More: Search for fire victims resumes in Quebec

In May 2013, the Ontario government made sprinklers mandatory in retirement homes across the province. But they gave them some time to comply.

Private care facilities were given five years to comply while government-owned facilities have until 2025.

That’s not good enough, says NDP MPP Paul Miller. He wants sprinklers in all nursing, long-term care and retirement homes within five years.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” he said. “How many people could pass away in the next 10 years in similar situations if it’s not mandatory?” he asked.

Miller is also cynical as to the timing of Matthews’ proposal to move up that deadline. “Well, gee, there’s an election coming,” Miller said. “What do you think?”

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Prior to May’s changes in the province’s building codes, only retirement homes built after 1998 had to have sprinklers.

The retirement home is located northeast of Quebec City in the waterfront town of L’isle-Verte went up in flames just after midnight Thursday. As of Friday afternoon, rescue crews were still searching for survivors.  Only the newer part of the building was equipped with sprinklers.

With files from The Canadian Press