THUNDER BAY – The Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association are concerned the Ontario Fire Marshal has ignored whether fire department staffing and response times played a role in the tragicMarch 29 residential fire in East Gwillimbury that killed four members of a local family.
In a press release issued Wednesday, Ontario Fire Marshal Ted Wieclawek states that a delay in the fire’s detection in the home – due to a lack of a main-floor smoke alarm and burned alarm system wiring – played a role in the tragedy.
The OPFFA agrees these were likely factors, but the Fire Marshal’s media release on preliminary findings is silent on the fact that full-time fire fighters were not on duty in the community at the time of the fire despite the fact that the local fire chief has been asking for more full-time staff. East Gwillimbury Fire Chief Ken Beckett told the media Saturday that the 12-minute response time could have been cut in half if full-time fighters had been on duty.
“The Fire Marshal is correct to examine the role that delayed detection of this fire played in its tragic outcome, but he cannot at the same time ignore the question of fire department’s staffing configuration and the resulting response times,” says Mark McKinnon, a Toronto fire fighter who is president of the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association.
“This tragedy illustrates that technology such as smoke alarms and alarm systems can fail, which is even more reason to ensure there is adequate fire protection in a given community,” McKinnon said. “Whether a fire is detected quickly or not, it is always imperative to get fire fighters on scene as quickly as possible. We call on the Ontario Fire Marshal to ensure that his investigation encompasses this important question as well.”