Lack of smoke detector blamed in fatal fire

TORONTO – The lack of a working smoke detector prevented a family of four in a small Ontario town from realizing their home was ablaze in time to escape alive, the province’s fire marshal said Wednesday.

By the time firefighters were called to the scene in East Gwillimbury early Friday morning, the home was fully engulfed in flames and the family’s escape route was blocked, Ontario Fire Marshal Tadeusz (Ted) Wieclawek said in a news conference.

“Delays in the detection of the fire and the subsequent notification of the fire department contributed significantly to the tragic outcome,” he said.

A preliminary investigation shows there was no smoke detector on the main floor and the one serving the second floor was wired through the main floor laundry room, where the blaze appears to have broken out, he said.

“Smoke and flames were drawn up a large central staircase to the second storey, trapping the family in the master bedroom,” he said.

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The victims of the fire were identified as Kevin Dunsmuir, 55, his wife Jennifer, 51, and their two sons Cameron, 16, and Robert, 19.

Under Ontario law, each home must have a smoke detector, but Wieclawek said the legislation doesn’t differentiate between a hard-wired or battery-operated version.

Forensic tests are still required to determine what started the fire.

Meanwhile, there are new questions about the response time of the East Gwillimbury volunteer fire service and why the Newmarket fire department was not called in under a mutual agreement pact.

Newmarket had a house of professional firefighters within a 10-kilometre radius of the fire.

East Gwillimbury Fire Chief Ken Beckett has said response time could have been cut in half if the department had full-time staff.

Wieclawek addressed the matter in Wednesday’s news conference, saying that while response time can be an important factor in any emergency, the delays in discovering the fire and alerting authorities played a key role.

The funeral for all four victims will be held on Friday.

(The Canadian Press, CFRB, 680News)

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