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SFD: Fire fatality punishment enough for tampering with smoke alarms

A working smoke alarm could have avoided a fatal fire
Fire AChief Raymer1
Saskatoon Fire Department Assistant Chief Yvonne Raymer answers questions from members of the media during Monday's press conference at Station 1.

SASKATOON — In the aftermath of a fatal fire, Saskatoon Fire Department Assistant Chief Yvonne Raymer says they are going to intensify their education campaign on the importance of smoke alarms and the dangers of tampering with them — in houses or any type of building.

Raymer spoke to members of the media on Monday at Fire Station 1, Idylwyld Drive South, to provide an update on the early morning fatal fire in an apartment unit on Avenue P South. She also answered some questions to further shed light on the tragic incident.

The SFD, at 2:34 a.m., received a report of a fire on the third floor of an apartment building at 202 Avenue P South with one person possibly still inside. Firefighters managed to rescue the three occupants from the burning suite. Paramedics completed a primary assessment to check the vital signs of the third occupant and determined the person was dead.

The fire investigator concluded that improver disposal of smoking material caused the fatal fire. Fire crews found the occupants in the bathroom and bedroom of the unit. The Fire Investigator determined the fire originated in the living room of the suite. There were no smoke alarms present inside the suite at the time of the fire. Damage was estimated at $50,000.

Raymer said filing criminal charges against anyone involved is not necessary.

“Not to the property manager or building owner because they did their part and, I think, probably because of the fatality, enough of a price has been paid for a penalty. We will do our best to public educate and send messaging on tampering of smoke alarms.”

“The fire investigator verified smoke alarm records with the property manager. The assumption was the occupants removed the smoke detector … We wouldn’t be able to confirm [the cause of death] until after the autopsy.”

The SFD, early this month, had a week-long Fire Prevention Week campaign where they encouraged the community to learn the sounds to ensure fire safety. It is also becoming mandatory for Saskatchewan homes to have carbon monoxide and smoke alarms starting July 1 of next year.

Raymer is reminding everyone that tampering with smoke alarms and other fire detectors is a criminal offence.

“I’ll give you an example, if we go in during a fire inspection and somebody admitted that they took down a smoke alarm, we could lay charges. But, at this point, one of people paying the ultimate price, there’s no point of charging them.”

She added that the fire investigation is not yet done as there’s still one piece that they need to uncover.

“We want to know why they could not self-evacuate, that’s the last piece of the investigation. It is nice to know for us, so we can be able to share it to the community to prevent future fatalities.”

“It is just a matter of trying to find out why they could not evacuate. We don’t have any word on the two individuals that survived. We’re not sure exactly what their [two individuals] condition is at this point. We do know that they are still in hospital care.”

Raymer said the fire alarms of the building were functioning.

“However, it is unknown if everybody evacuated at the time of the arrival of the fire department. We do know that the residents on the ground floor were able to remain in their suites after the investigation.”

She added that 11 tenants were already rehoused after the property manager found another apartment building for them.

“This was, actually, a well-maintained building. However, two units have missing smoke alarms; they were taken down. But all units have their smoke alarms changed. This was a tragic accident and we’re reviewing our fire inspection history.”