TORONTO, Jan. 17 /CNW/ - Over the past decade, 874 Ontarians lost their
lives in residential fires. Many of these deaths could have been prevented had
automatic sprinklers been installed in the homes.
"These tragedies are made all the worse by the fact that many of the
victims are children who are twice as likely as any other age group to be
injured or killed in a residential fire," said Richard Boyes, President of the
Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (OAFC), at a news conference today.
A recent study by the National Fire Protection Association in the U.S.
found that sprinklers in residential properties reduce fire fatalities by at
least 57 per cent.
This week, Premier Dalton McGuinty acknowledged that Ontario is "laggard"
in that it is the only jurisdiction in North America that does not require
sprinkler systems in residential high-rise buildings. He indicated that his
government would be considering various options, including requiring sprinkler
systems in new buildings three storeys and higher.
"This is an important first step and we commend the McGuinty government
for moving forward," said Boyes who is also the Oakville Fire Chief. "As a
next step, we'd like to see sprinklers being made mandatory in all new
residential units including single-family dwellings, townhouses, and low-rise
Scottsdale, Arizona, and Vancouver, B.C, both require all new residential
units to have sprinkler systems. Since the regulations in each jurisdiction
came into effect - 22 years ago in Scottsdale and 18 years ago in Vancouver -
not a single fire fatality has occurred in homes with sprinkler systems.
"We would like to see Ontario be a leader as well, and achieve a similar
safety record," said Fire Chief Boyes.
Structural fires in Ontario also cause some $347 million in property
damage each year, and sprinklers can have a significant impact on lowering
In Scottsdale, for example, the average fire damage in homes with
sprinklers has been about $2,000 compared with $45,000 in homes without
sprinklers. The Vancouver experience has been similar. The average loss in
homes with sprinklers has been about $1,000 compared with $14,000 in homes
OAFC is advocating the use of automatic sprinklers together with smoke
alarms in residential buildings. "The smoke alarm provides an early warning
and the sprinkler system works to suppress the flames in the critical minutes
before rescue and fire fighting efforts can get underway," explained Toronto
Fire Chief William Stewart.
"Those opposed to mandating sprinklers say they're concerned about the
costs and the impact on the prices of new homes. But the same was said about
seat belts and air bags in motor vehicles, and today these devices are
recognized as essential life-saving equipment that no one would do without,"
noted Fire Chief Boyes.
OAFC is a non-profit organization that serves and represents senior fire
service managers from the 487 fire departments across the province of Ontario.
These Chief Officers lead 29,735 fire fighters - 10,600 full-time, 19,000
volunteer and 135 part-time fire fighters. It is the Fire Chiefs who are
responsible for the protection of public safety through the delivery of fire,
emergency, rescue, fire protection and public education services.
For further information:
For further information: Fire Chief Richard Boyes, President, Ontario
Association of Fire Chiefs, (905) 338-4426; Dena Fehir, PR POST, (416)