Blitz finds too many homes without smoke alarms

As a follow-up to Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 8-14), members of the Fort Frances Fire and Rescue Service went door-to-door here Monday for a smoke alarm blitz.
And while most of the residences visited were found to be in full compliance with fire safety regulations, a handful were a cause for concern, Fire Chief Steve Richardson said Wednesday.
“I was surprised—and concerned—that we did run across some residents who didn’t have a smoke alarm in the home,” he noted.
Firefighters visited 140 residences, and inspected 102 where the occupants were home. Of these, 5.8 percent had inoperable smoke alarms while 3.9 percent had none at all.
“Our goal is to get it that number to zero, and make sure everyone has a working smoke alarm in their home,” said Chief Richardson. “It is the law.”
Under the Ontario Fire Code, all residences must have at least one working smoke alarm installed near the bedrooms or sleeping area. If there are sleeping areas on more than one level, one smoke alarm is required for each level.
“I guess one of the key messages we want to get out is to landlords. It is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure they have working smoke alarms in their rental properties,” Chief Richardson stressed.
“They can be held liable in the event of a fire if there’s any personal injury, or worse than that, if there’s a fire fatality,” he warned.
“We did run across some of that Monday, where there were no working smoke alarms in rental properties,” he noted.
However, no charges were laid.
“What we do whenever we do the blitz is at any place we find that may not have a smoke alarm, or has one and it’s not working—the battery’s dead or something—we make sure the home is left with a working smoke alarm,” Chief Richardson said.
In fact, firefighters left four smoke alarms and six batteries with local residents on Monday, he noted.
“Then the person has seven days from the time of our visit to replace the smoke alarm we left, or the battery. Failing that, they will receive a $235 fine,” he added.
“We do a complete follow-up on all the homes that did not have a working smoke alarm.”
While failure to comply with the Ontario Fire Code can result in a $235 fine for first-time offenders, the cost can skyrocket up to $25,000—and jail time—for those who consistently are non-compliant with the law.
Chief Richardson also said local residents shouldn’t be surprised if they hear a knock at their door in upcoming weeks.
“We’re going to be getting out again this fall, probably on a weekend during daylight hours instead of a Monday night,” he noted. “They [the public] will see the fire service out there again.”
The fire department recommends residents check their smoke alarms once a month and replace the batteries every year.
If anyone has any questions or concerns, such as the responsibilities of landlords with regard to smoke alarms, give the Fort Frances Fire Department a call at 274-9841.
“We can work with them to answer any of their questions,” said Chief Richardson.