Canadian Firefighter Magazine

The tricky issue of negligence

By Canadian Firefighter   

Features Blogs Editor’s blog

April 16, 2008 

We posted a new poll on our website today (it’s about time, we know!), asking whether you think people who don’t have smoke detectors in their homes should be charged if a fire in the home leads to a death.

Ontario Fire Marshal Pat Burke thinks so. Burke said last week that “instead of feeling sorry for parents who kill their children, we’ve got to put them in jail.”

His comments (click here to see the story in the Windsor Star
) follow the deaths in March of three children and two adults in a Hamilton, Ont., home that did not have smoke detectors.


Burke points out that there’s no public outrage over these kinds of tragedies. Nor is there an advocacy group backing firefighters’ calls for smoke detectors in homes. Mothers Against Drunk Driving have so successfully turned drinking and driving into a social taboo that police forces are able to focus their attention on other public awareness campaigns. Where’s the public hue and cry over smoke detectors? Certainly, no parent intends for a fire to start in a home and kill children. But should parents who don’t install smoke detectors or replace old batteries be charged with negligence if their children are killed in a fire? This is a tricky ethical dilemma, bound to stir emotions and debate. Let us know what you think.


Our new poll picks up on the our last website survey, which asked whether public education efforts need to be upgraded or revisited. More than 85 per cent of respondents between March 2 and April 12 said change is needed. All you guys who clicked “yes” to the poll need to be pro active and start hollering for change – check out the editorial A call to al(arms) in the April issue of Canadian Firefighter.


I can almost hear you . . .

Print this page


Stories continue below