Fire officials are calling for the creation of a $2.8-million fire safety task force to be dedicated to Toronto Community Housing (TCH) amid recently-released statistics that show TCH buildings have a fire fatality rate significantly higher than the rest of the city.
“Based on the assessment of the current and predicted fire safety risks involving TCH residential buildings, the fire chief recommends the creation of a permanent task force allocated to TCH Fire Safety,” read a briefing note posted on the City of Toronto’s website and prepared by Deputy Fire Chief Jim Jessop.
Between 2012 and mid-December 2017, the report said the fire fatality rate was four times higher than the remainder of Toronto and three times higher than Ontario’s general population.
Looking at the period between Jan. 1, 2016 and Dec. 13, 2017, city staff said there were 11 deaths in TCH properties, which accounted for 37 per cent of all fire deaths in Toronto.
The briefing note came after the committee directed staff to a “strategy to address the concerns regarding the recent fire safety issues” at TCH buildings while referring to significant multi-fatality incidents.
On Dec. 4, a mother and her two sons died after they were rescued by firefighters from their Flemington Road apartment. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
In February 2016, four seniors died after a fire broke out inside their Neilson Road apartment building. Toronto Community Housing was eventually charged under the Ontario Fire Code. The agency pleaded guilty to failing to implement a fire safety plan and was ordered to pay a $100,000 fine.
Of the 51 major fires at TCH properties between 2010 and mid-December, more than half (26) “were deemed to have violations of the Ontario Fire Code which contributed to the deaths, critical injuries or spread of the fire beyond the unit of origin,” according to the staff report.
Twenty-four people died and 19 were critically injured in that same period.
Meanwhile, the task force proposed by senior fire officials would consist of 25 staff members, including several inspectors, educators and investigators.
The report said they are needed to address “current and predicted fire safety risks” at TCH’s 2,100 buildings, which house approximately 110,000 residents.
Staff also said a comprehensive education and marketing campaign would begin in 2018.
The annual cost of the task force is estimated to be $2.81 million.
When asked by Global News to talk about the report, a City of Toronto spokesperson said officials are waiting for the report to be considered by the budget committee before they comment further.
However, the spokesperson added that the fire fatality rate statistics don’t reflect future probability.
The report and funding request still needs to be considered by Toronto city council as a part of the 2018 budget process.