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Occupant saved by having smoke alarm as Webbwood home destroy in house fire

On Sunday, May 2, a single-story home at 255 Burns Crossover Road was destroyed by fire. The sole occupant, Greg Burns escaped unharmed due to a working smoke alarm going off. Burns is thankful he had a working smoke alarm in his home at the time of the fire. “If people tell you that having house smoke alarms are no good, they’re stupid, mine saved my life,” he said. For nearly 50 years smoke alarms have been required under law in Ontario. According to the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs, “the law on smoke alarms was beefed up in 2006 to require fire detection devices on every floor of a dwelling, and, outside all sleeping areas. Offenders can be ticketed $360 or fined up to $50,000, double that for corporations.” Since smoke alarms were mandated as law in 1975, death rates from fires have fallen considerably from a high of 31 deaths per million in 1980 to 7.8 in 2020 government statistics state. However, as stated by the Fire Chiefs Association at the end of March this year, “fire deaths in Ontario soared to near-record levels during the first year of the pandemic, spiking in the coldest stretch of this winter to levels not seen in more than 20 years.” “Too often we investigate fatal fires where there are no working smoke alarms,” said Kristy Denette, a spokesperson for the Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office. The Fire Marshal’s office states there is no evidence that the pandemic has anything to do with the increase in fires. Burns was unable to salvage any personal belongings from the fire. Everything was lost. A life-long Webbwood resident, he travels south to work at the Bruce Power facility working rotations of four days on and four days off. Burns had finished his rotation and arrived back in Webbwood in the early morning of May 2. The house is heated by an electric/woodburning furnace located in the basement. When not at home and while working down south, the home is heated with electricly. Upon arriving back home in Webbwood on May 2 at about 3 a.m., the resident went down to the basement and switched the heating from electric to wood then went to bed. According to Burns at about 8:45 a.m. the following morning, he heard the smoke alarm go off and could smell smoke. Upon leaving the bedroom and seeing the smoke he said, “I grabbed my wallet and phone and left the building.” After getting out of the burning house, Burns called the fire department. The call came into the Sables-Spanish River Fire Department at around 9:30 a.m. Seven trucks attended the fire with 20 volunteer firefighters arriving to fight the blaze. Sables-Spanish River Fire Chief Paul Panesar verified with Burns that there was no one still in the burning building and put in place a defensive action to protect the surrounding area. Using this defensive attack, the firefighters were able to contain and extinguish the fire. Often when structures are fully involved, fires are attacked defensively with the main goal being the protection of nearby exposures such as bush, nearby buildings or vehicles. To play it safe, Panesar called in the tanker at the Walford detachment to put out any hot spots. Advised by the resident that no one was in the house and there were no hazards was “a plus for us,” said the chief. Panesar contacted Hydro shortly after arriving and had the power shut off as a precautionary measure. Because there were no fatalities or suspicion of arson, the Fire Marshal was not called in. Cause of the fire is undetermined. This fire was the second house fire in the township; the first occurring near Walford on April 24. Both homes were destroyed by fire. Kristy Denette, from the Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office recently stated, “Already this year, Ontario is reporting 42 fire deaths. Thirty-two people died in fires in January and February, the highest toll for those two months since 1998.” Further to this, Denette said, “fire deaths tend to be higher in the winter, with heating-related fires more common then.” Burns is staying with his sister in Webbwood and continuing his four-day shifts at the Bruce Power facility.

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