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Fire Marshal's report into EG fatal fire sparks call for mutual aid improvements

Posted August 13, 2014

An improperly maintained clothes dryer vent which caught fire, coupled with the absence of a main floor smoke alarm were the contributing factors in the March 29, 2013 fatal fire that killed four family members inside their Sharon, East Gwillimbury home, according to the final report of the Ontario Fire Marshal's office released this morning at a press conference in Toronto.

Specifically the Fire Marshal's report cites the following factors:
  • The clothes dryer was not installed or maintained as per dryer manufacturer's instructions;
  • There was no smoke alarm on the main floor, delaying the discovery of the fire by the occupants;
  • Given the lack of a smoke alarm on the main floor, there was a delay in the subsequent notification to the fire department;
  • By the time the second floor smoke alarm activated, fire conditions were such, that escape down the central staircase was no longer possible, trapping the family in the master bedroom;
  • At the time of arrival by emergency services, the fire conditions were such, that survival of the occupants and rescue by the firefighters was untenable.
"Collectively, these factors highlight the need for Ontario families to have a better understanding of the value of smoke alarms, the need to develop and practise home escape plans that accommodate those with cognitive or physical limitations, and that by doing so, they will ensure that first responders have the best chance of conducting a rescue, and performing suppression activities."

In the days after the fire, there were suggestions the deaths could have been been prevented if East Gwillimbury employed full-time firefighters, rather than part-time. Additionally, why Newmarket fire department which is a full-time service was dispatched immediate under the mutual aid agreement. This fire took place in the midst of New Tecumseth council debating the issue of hiring six full-time firefighters Monday to Fridays during "business hours."

Ontario Fire Marshal Ted Wieclawek told the media this morning his office will be in contact with fire departments across the province to faciliate improvements to mutual aid pacts.

New Tecumseth's Fire Services has mutual aid agreements with Adjala-Tosorontio, Essa, Innisfil, and Bradford West Gwillimbury, as well provides fire service support/coverage for other Simcoe County services.

"Municipalities must ensure they have the necessary staffing, resources in place if they expect them to perform rescue and suppression activities in a timely manner," Fire Marshal Wieclawek told the press. "By entering into a fire protection agreement or automatic aid agreement will allow you to coordinate resources in a more effective and efficient manner, then you should be doing that."

At this post, New Tecumseth Fire Chief Dan Heydon said he wanted to read the final report before commenting.

"'I was aware of some of the initial investigation findings but I haven't seen the final investigation report," said Chief Heydon via email. "Once I have a look at the final report I'll be in a better position to respond."

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