Fatal blaze likely caused by smoking materials

CARELESS USE of smoking materials is believed to have ignited a fire that claimed two lives in a townhouse complex Jan. 15.

  • Jan. 25, 2011 2:00 p.m.
the first floor of the townhouse that burned Jan. 15 still smelled of smoke and was full of rubble a few days later.

the first floor of the townhouse that burned Jan. 15 still smelled of smoke and was full of rubble a few days later.

CARELESS USE of smoking materials is believed to have ignited a fire that claimed two lives in a townhouse complex Jan. 15.

The Fire Service Advisor from the Office of the Fire Commissioner said that was the likely cause and that the cause would be officially ruled as “undetermined,” according to Terrace RCMP spokesperson Corporal Sean Hall Jan. 17.

On January 15, shortly after 8 a.m., Terrace firefighters and RCMP officers were called to a multi-family residential building fire at 4514 Scott Avenue, said police last week.

The residential units are also known as Kalum Gardens.

Firefighters located an unconscious male in a bedroom, medical assistance was given and he was transported to Mills Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced deceased, said police.

After the blaze was extinguished, a second deceased person was located in another bedroom, said police.

RCMP determined that no foul play was involved and noted the names of the deceased would not be released in respect of the families. The investigation was turned over to the BC Coroner’s Office.

Lieutenant Bill Warcup of the Terrace fire department wasn’t sure if there were smoke detectors in the unit or if there were, if they had been in working order.

The building, which was likely built in the mid-1960s or so, didn’t have fire walls that would’ve kept the flames contained, so fire burned through the adjoining wall between that townhouse and the one next door so much that a person could nearly walk through the hole.

Warcup said carbon monoxide inhalation is the likely reason in the majority of cases where people are killed in a fire.

“You eliminate everything else and that’s the one thing that’s left,” said Warcup.

Warcup reminded the public to ensure that smoke detectors in their homes are working and said everyone should sleep with their bedroom doors closed.

Sleeping with your bedroom door closed will allow for more time to wake up and get out of a house in the event of a fire and it can diminish the toxic levels of carbon monoxide from entering the room while you sleep, he said.

City building inspector Bruce Miller said smoke detectors need to be maintained and be tested to ensure they’re working as dust and particles can build up in them so they no longer function.

He said the damaged residential units will be repaired to the current building code.

Fire separations have their place but flames can still get through the wall anyway, he said.

For example, people might damage a wall and have no idea that even a small little hole, which will pull air into it, will also suck a fire into it, he said.

“You don’t have to have a very big hole, once the fire gets going if the house is closed up, it builds up pressure and forces the fire into the hole,” said Miller. “It can burn through a fire separation. If you put a hole in it, you can have the best fire separation and the fire will go through.”

Sometimes a doorknob will punch a hole through the drywall. If that’s a fire separation wall, that hole alone could allow a fire to breach the fire separation, he said. It’s important to fix any holes in a wall that has gyprock.

“Even if you put something as small as masking tape there, just so the air can’t get sucked into it, is an improvement,” said Miller.