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Editor’s blog


June 13, 2013
By Laura King


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June 13, 2013, Toronto - Often, when watching the news about fires, floods, building collapses, ambushes and line-of-duty deaths with my extremely astute and observant (like his mother!) 16-year-old son, he declares, “There’s never any good news.” Today, a good news blog about fire-service successes.

June 13, 2013, Toronto – Often, when watching the news about fires,
floods, building collapses, ambushes and line-of-duty deaths with my
extremely astute and observant (like his mother!) 16-year-old son, he
declares, “There’s never any good news.” Today, a good news blog about
fire-service successes.

Earlier this week, Ottawa Fire Chief John deHooge participated in a press conference with Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq to announce the end of at-home marijuana grow ops.

The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC), the Fire Chiefs Association of B.C. (FCABC) and other groups have been pressing for this change for a long time, educating Ottawa about the dangers of grow ops for firefighters. I won’t detail those concerns here – you all know about electrical and entanglement issues and the other safety hazards of grow ops.

It has been a tough sell, but the intense lobby efforts by the CAFC have paid off, much to the disappointment of some medical marijuana users who grow their own remedies.

Indeed, an Abbotsford, B.C.-based lawyer has said he will launch a constitutional challenge on behalf of poor medical-marijuana users if the government outlaws homegrown.

“One of the constitutional rights is the right to reasonable access,” lawyer John Conroy told Canada.com this week. “There’s a large group of people that won’t have reasonable access because they’re poor. The government is proposing to sell medical marijuana for $8 to $10 a gram – a lot of people are growing their own for $1 to $5 a gram.”

I won’t get into a debate over constitutional rights that I’m sure every firefighter association in the country could tackle brilliantly. Let’s just say it’s great to see Ottawa take the high road.

Last week’s good news came from a developer in Vaughan, Ont., that is risking backlash from industry counterparts by building 142 new homes with sprinklers and garage heat detectors as standard features.  You can read our coverage of that issue here and then follow the additional links.

This news, too, is the result of intense advocacy, this time by the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (OAFC) and the Canadian Automatic Sprinkler Association. British Columbia had set the example for automatic sprinklers and its fire safety and fire fatality records prove that sprinklers save lives.

That the Ontario announcement came weeks after a family of four died in a house fire in East Gwillimbury, Ont., is coincidental – I’m told Townwood Homes had been considering the added fire-safety measures for some time – but relevant given the push in Ontario for improved public education, fire prevention, fire-safety measures such as sprinklers and smoke alarms, and code enforcement.

The real news here, though, is that a company with principles opted to do the right thing about an issue that provincial politicians wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pike pole.

While other provinces are talking about improved public education and fire prevention, British Columbia is doing something about it.

In the last year, the FCABC and its many local, provincial and national partners have distributed 21,000 smoke alarms in high-risk areas. In the first year of campaign to ensure that every home in the province has a working smoke alarm, fire deaths were down 44.4 per cent and the incidence of structure fires dropped 5.1 per cent.

While the FCABA acknowledges that there’s still plenty of work to do, its innovative partnerships with provincial and federal government ministries, companies such as Kidde Canada, agencies such as the Royal Canadian College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Insurance Brokers’ Association of B.C., and now The Canadian Red Cross, Food Banks BC and the United Way – which are on board to distribute information to their clients and generate opportunities to test and install smoke alarms for vulnerable people – is a fine example for the rest of the country. (That’s only a partial list of partners – there are lots more.)

As with a good fire-ground operation, it takes a lot of work to bring that many parties together to work for a common cause. 

Clearly the FCABC, the CAFC, the OAFC, other chiefs and firefighter associations are up for the challenge. It’s about time.

Good news indeed.


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