The Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) has pleaded guilty to failing to implement a fire safety plan following an apartment blaze that killed four seniors in 2016.
The TCHC has been fined $100,000 for violating the Ontario Fire Code after a fatal fire tore through the top floor of a five-storey seniors’ residence at 1315 Neilson Rd. in Malvern on Feb. 5, 2016.
The Ontario Fire Marshal later determined the fire was intentionally set and it is still being investigated as arson by police. No arrests have been made.
Officials said three people died on Feb. 5 and a fourth person succumbed to their injuries on Feb. 29. In total, 15 people were hospitalized.
Patrick Richmond, the son-in-law of two of the victims, said he was disappointed with the result of the investigation.
“The decision today just brought a partial closure to this matter but it doesn’t bring full closure because I don’t like that two charges were withdrawn and they were only fined for one charge. I can’t grasp the legality of that,” he said.
The fire investigation revealed the blaze originated in combustible chairs on the fifth floor where two hallways intersect.
“This terrible fire is a grim reminder that violations of the Fire Code can pose serious risks and result in tragic consequences,” said Jim Jessop, Deputy Fire Chief, in a media release.
“Toronto Fire Services is committed to ensuring appropriate measures are taken by property owners to achieve both compliance and fire safety.”
A statement by the City of Toronto said a new safety plan for the seniors’ residence has been implemented since the fatal fire.
“Since 2016, Fire Services has inspected all TCHC high-rise and seniors buildings and will continue to do so on an annual basis,” the statement read.
TCHC Interim President and CEO Kevin Marshman said in a statement on Thursday that “neither the charge that was pled to, nor the agreed statement of facts read in court today, alleged that the deficiencies in the implementation of the fire safety plan caused or contributed to the fire, or any loss of life, injuries or damage to the building sustained as part of that fire.”
TCHC was also charged with permitting combustible materials to accumulate in a means of egress and failing to instruct supervisory staff on fire emergency procedures in the fire safety plan before being given responsibility for fire safety, but those two were dropped.
“Let me express, once again, Toronto Community Housing’s heartfelt sympathy to the families of those who lost their lives and to those who were injured in the 1315 Neilson Rd. fire on February 5, 2016,” Marshman said.
With files from Catherine McDonald