Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Quebec Coroner Recommends Automatic Sprinklers for Seniors' Homes, Old and New

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Quebec Coroner Recommends Automatic Sprinklers for Seniors' Homes, Old and New

Article excerpt

Seniors' homes should have sprinklers: Coroner

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MONTREAL - A Quebec coroner says all certified seniors' homes in the province, old and new, should be equipped with automatic sprinkler systems to avoid tragedies like the one that killed 32 people a little over a year ago.

Cyrille Delage said in his final report into the fire at the L'Isle Verte, Que., home that while sprinklers "don't solve all the problems," they can at least slow the progression of the flames.

Fire swept quickly through the home in the early morning hours of Jan. 23, 2014.

The residence housed 52 elderly people, including many who couldn't move around without the use of a walker or wheelchair.

The wing of the Residence du Havre that burned to the ground was not equipped with automatic sprinklers and that's where many of those with disabilities were housed.

That was one of several issues uncovered by Delage in his report, made public Thursday.

Delage said the building wasn't up to code.

He added firefighters did not have an evacuation plan for the seniors' residence and they arrived late to the scene.

Moreover, he said several volunteer firefighters -- including the fire chief -- were not adequately trained because they were subject to a "grandfather" clause that exempted them from new training requirements.

"We will say in polite terms that during this (fire) intervention, the lack of training and preparation were very evident," Delage said in his report.

Delage said the evidence presented to him indicates "for now" that the fire was accidental, but it will be up to the Crown to decide if anyone should be charged criminally.

The blaze started just after midnight on Jan. 23 on a particularly freezing, windy night, which hampered firefighters' work.

The only staffer working that night was Bruno Belanger, who testified during the coroner's inquiry that he had not been trained on the building's emergency evacuation procedures.

Instead of helping the elderly occupants out of the home, Belanger said he went to wake up the co-owner Irene Plante.

Neither Plante nor Belanger were able to help evacuate the building because the smoke had become too thick. …

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