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No working smoke alarms in fatal Waterloo house fire

Fire officials have confirmed there were no working smoke alarms at a fatal house fire in Waterloo earlier this week.

Fire investigators still have a lot of details to sift through before they will have definite answers on what happened, but the Ontario Fire Marshal said if the home had a functioning alarm and a proper escape plan, the people inside would have had a much better chance to get out safe.

“The terrifying trend of no working smoke alarms continues in many of the fires we are seeing across Ontario, which is very concerning as we know they save lives,” Jon Pegg, the Ontario Fire Marshal, said at a news conference Thursday.

Multiple people were sent to hospital after the fire on Graham Street in Waterloo on Monday, June 5, including a 54-year-old woman who was pronounced dead.

A 58-year-old man and a 30-year-old man were also rushed to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. At least seven dogs and cats were also killed.

“Really the situation in Waterloo is there’s a common thread with working smoke alarms, compliance,” Waterloo Fire Chief Richard Hepditch said.

Investigators say a fire can become fatal in less than one minute. They're pleading with the public to make sure there are working smoke alarms on every floor of their homes.

“We’re trained by Hollywood to see fires, you know you can see right through a house and the smoke is clear – that isn’t reality. If you’ve ever been around a real house fire, it’s black thick smoke that is choking,” Pegg said.

Pegg said tragic fires also impact first responders called in to supress the flames or investigate afterwards. Officials say some firefighters feel a sense of failure when someone dies, even if they have done everything they can to help.

“It is very difficult for our crews. We sit at the kitchen table and talk with our firefighters, and you can see the pain,” Brampton Fire Chief Bill Boyes said.

While it is law to have working smoke alarms inside your home, the fire marshal said not enough residents are taking it seriously. Pegg said over the last week there has been multiple house fires in Ontario with clear indications of non-functioning smoke alarms or no smoke alarms at all.

Last year, 133 people died in fires in Ontario, which set a new 20-year record.

“The law is in place. It is absolutely rock solid. People are just choosing not to follow it. So we’re going to look at everything we possibly can to drive compliance,” Pegg said.

Next week the Office of the Fire Marshal is holding a summit with different fire services around the province to look at ways to get people to take fire safety more seriously. They will explore ideas like tougher fines, tougher laws or different education campaigns. Top Stories

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