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Tragedy in Orillia


January 20, 2009
By Laura King

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Jan. 20, 2009

By the time I sat down to read The Toronto Star this morning I had already read several news stories about the fire yesterday at a seniors’ home in Orillia, Ont. I was out of town yesterday and away from my desk/computer but my BlackBerry buzzed all day with news alerts about the fire. Still, I shook my head when I saw the headline on page 2 of today’s Star: No sprinklers in fatal Orillia fire. Unbelievable.

My first thought
was that Ontario Fire Marshal Pat Burke and Richard Boyes, president of the Ontario
Association of Fire Chiefs, must have bruises on their foreheads from banging
their heads against the wall in frustration over the sprinkler issue. It’s bad
enough that there’s resistance to sprinklers in regular, two-storey homes. A
seniors residents without sprinklers seems unfathomable. In this case, however,
it’s perfectly legal. In Ontario, sprinklers are not required in nursing
homes with fewer than four storeys. Do the powers that be think seniors in
nursing homes are spry enough to sprint down four flights of stairs but can’t
manage five or six flights? Boggles the mind, really. (Because Muskoka Heights Retirement
Residence is privately owned it therefore wouldn’t have had to comply with the
sprinkler rule even if it were more than four storeys.)

The Star
smartly points out that the
Ontario government has had almost 14
years to act since a fire at
Meadowcroft Place retirement home in Mississauga claimed eight lives in 1995. A 1996
 coroner's inquest recommended making
sprinklers mandatory in all private retirement homes.

Burke
told the Star that the fire marshal's office is reviewing the government's
response to the Meadowcroft inquiry. Let’s hope Burke’s unleashes a fiery
response and that this latest tragedy remains burned into the memories of the lawmakers
until after Burke’s sends his report to Community Safety and Correctional
Services Minister Rick Bartolucci at the end of January.


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