What's Separating You From Your Neighbour?

    CCMPA's national media campaign prompts consumers to think about
    the fire safety of today's home-building materials and the advantages of
    building with concrete block

    TORONTO, July 7 /CNW/ - Many Toronto-area residents will recall the
city's top news story on Wednesday, February 20, 2008: A six-alarm fire - one
of the worst in Toronto history - that hollowed out several adjoining
businesses in one of the city's heritage districts. At its height, the blaze
had 150 firefighters and 56 fire trucks battling flames that threatened to
burn out of control and, when finally extinguished, had razed part of a city
block. Remarkably, no one was killed, though the damage was estimated at more
than $10 million.
    It was a grim reminder of the brute force of fire - how quickly it can
spread and the destruction it can cause, particularly in adjoining buildings.
    Despite headline-making disasters such as this one, however, 2006 stats
from the Ontario Fire Marshal indicate that, overall, the losses caused by
residential fires (43 percent) by far surpass the losses resulting from fires
in business or commercial properties (about 8 percent). Hence the question
posed above: What's separating you from your neighbour? If you live in a
townhome or semi-detached home, are your adjoining walls built with wood frame
and drywall - or are they built using concrete block?
    These are the kinds of questions the Canadian Concrete Masonry Producers
Association (CCMPA) hopes consumers will ask themselves when they see the
billboards developed as part of CCMPA's national campaign to raise awareness
of the fire retardancy of concrete block.
    "Consumers are selective when it comes to the cosmetics of a home - the
hardwood, the ceramics, the fixtures and appliances," says Paul Hargest,
President of CCMPA. "They need to be equally selective about the structure of
the home - the quality and durability of the materials used to build it. This
is all the more important given the increasing density in urban areas and the
fact that so many of us live in dwellings that are attached."
    Hargest adds that while adjoining walls made of wood frame and drywall
will meet Ontario Building Code requirements, in a fire, the walls will burn.
    Concrete block, on the other hand, is non-combustible: It doesn't burn,
and it reduces the risk of structural collapse. It also doesn't produce toxic
gases or smoke, which themselves are the cause of death in many residential
fires. In industry-standard fire testing (prescribed by the American Society
for Testing and Materials - ASTM), there is no contest: Measured in terms of
durability and heat transfer, concrete block beats wood and drywall hands
    In explaining the billboard design for CCMPA's campaign, Hargest points
to figures from the Council of Canadian Fire Marshals and Fire Commissioners
that indicate the three most common causes of residential fires: smokers'
material and open flame, heating equipment and - the worst offender - cooking
equipment. Research from the Ontario Fire Marshal shows cooking to be 'the
number-one ignition source in preventable residential fires'. Sixty-nine
percent of these fires start because the cooking was left unattended.
    The billboard images specifically target these risks, while the
'firewall' headline is not only a play on words but also a reminder that we
owe it to ourselves to protect our homes at least as much as we do our
    A visit to the CCMPA website (www.ccmpa.ca) reveals some of the other
reasons to build with concrete block - the fact that it's a more effective
sound barrier; that it prevents heat loss (it's about twice as
energy-efficient as poured concrete); it better withstands moisture and
inhibits mould growth; and it contains a high degree of recycled material.
It's also competitively priced: Compared with wood frame, light-gauge steel
frame and drywall, block is either the same price or slightly cheaper.
    "There's no doubt that a working smoke detector and a good escape plan
are vital to protecting yourself from fire," says Paul Hargest. "But so is
having a solidly built home constructed with fire-retardant materials." He
adds, "You can't control the forgetfulness of a neighbour, but you can ensure
that the wall separating the two of you is as fire-safe as it can possibly

    /NOTE TO PHOTO EDITORS: A photo accompanying this release is available on
    the CNW Photo Network and archived at http://photos.newswire.ca.
    Additional archived images are also available on the CNW Photo Archive
    website at http://photos.newswire.ca. Images are free to accredited
    members of the media/

For further information:

For further information: on the block campaign or to speak with Paul
Hargest, contact Marina de Souza, Managing Director of CCMPA, (416) 495-7497,
1-888-495-7497, mdesouza@ccmpa.ca

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Canadian Concrete Masonry Producers Association

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