ORILLIA, ON, May 25, 2012 /CNW/ - On behalf of the Orillia Fire Department, I would like to thank the Coroner's jury for the recommendations made today with regards to the 2009 Muskoka Heights fire. The 39 recommendations, when acted upon, will improve the safety of the residents in Ontario's B3 care occupancies. The residents of B3 care occupancies are persons that receive special or supervisory care because of cognitive or physical limitations. They are usually referred to as retirement homes or assisted living centers.
In particular, the following recommendations will best serve Ontario's most vulnerable residents:
Sprinklers, Smoke Detectors and Door Hardware:
The jury has recommended that automatic sprinklers be installed retroactively for all B3 care occupancies. Currently, only those B3 care occupancies built after 1997 require such sprinklers. The cost for this will vary, but starts at $3/square foot, the equivalent of installing new carpet.
Sprinklers are activated based on temperature increases and are isolated to cover the area of the fire. Furthermore, they extinguish fires, dampen and/or supress smoke which increases visibility and allow vulnerable residents more time to exit and firefighters more time to enter the building.
According to the Acting Deputy Fire Marshall Al Suleman, there is no evidence that there have been any difficulties in the operation of automatic sprinklers in Ontario.
In addition, the jury recommended that there should be smoke detectors installed in all sleeping rooms, and automatic door closers and hold open devices be installed throughout all B3 care occupancies.
The timing for implementation of these improvements is 1-5 years.
Provincial Offences Act:
The Jury recommended that the enforcement provisions of the Provincial Offences Act ("POA") be enhanced. Currently, under Part 1 of the POA, fire departments can only issue tickets for five offences all related to smoke alarms. The jury has recommended that the number of offences and maximum penalty be increased. They also recommended that jail time should be sought for those in default of these fines. We hope these recommendations will have a deterrent effect and increase the likelihood that owners of care occupancies comply with the Ontario Fire Code.
Unfortunately, the $62,500 fine against Muskoka Heights and the $18,750 fine against Gail Wilson, Home Administrator, for violating the Ontario Fire Code remain unpaid.
Training for B3 Care Occupancy Staff:
The jury recommended that all B3 care occupancy supervisory staff should be required to pass a fire safety course and that the trainers for this course be certified.
In addition, the jurors recommended that all fire departments should develop and implement regular mock evacuation programs for all B3 care occupancies in their jurisdictions. This has been the practice of the Orillia Fire Department for a number of years.
The jury also recommended that the Office of the Fire Marshall of Ontario should work with the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs to provide increased assistance to the 462 fire services in the province in these matters.
Supervisory Staff in B3 Care Occupancies:
The jury recommended that there should be two supervisory staff working at all times in B3 care occupancies. At the time of an emergency there are many tasks that need to be performed simultaneously. Such tasks include calling 9-1-1, determining the location of the emergency, implementing the fire safety plan, commencing the evacuation of residents, closing fire doors, and meeting and providing information to the fire department upon arrival.
The Orillia Fire Department is always looking for ways to improve our service to the residents and businesses of our City. The Muskoka Heights fire was once in a career fire for many of us and the results of which, including the first time charges against a care occupancy operator, have provided us with valuable lessons.
This Inquest not only gave us another opportunity to learn and improve, but also provided valuable information for all emergency services, care occupancy operators and regulators across Ontario.
I want to again recognize the hard work and dedication of the members of the Orillia Professional Fire Fighters Association, the Orillia volunteer fire fighters and the fire fighters from neighbouring municipalities, all of whom responded to, and worked diligently on the Muskoka Heights fire.
Finally, our deepest condolences remain with the friends and families of those who perished and those who were injured in this terrible incident. I hope that these recommendations provide them with some level of comfort.
For further information:
City of Orillia Fire Department