Power surge likely cause of blaze that injured firefighters

Ontario's Fire Marshal and the Electrical Safety Authority are examining whether surge protectors did their job in a fire that destroyed a Stittsville home and injured two firefighters on Monday.

Ontario Fire Marshal, electrical authority investigating to determine whether home's surge protector failed

Fire destroyed the home at 24 Snowberry Way in Stittsville Monday. Two volunteer firefighters were injured battling the blaze. (Stu Mills/CBC)

An electrical power surge is being eyed as the probable cause of a destructive fire that tore through a house in Stittsville Monday afternoon, injuring two firefighters

Crews were battling the two-alarm blaze at 24 Snowberry Way when two volunteer firefighters fell through a collapsing floor. One needed to be rescued from the building.

They were taken to hospital and were last listed in stable condition. The firefighter who had to be rescued was in an induced coma, but fire Chief Gerry Pingitore said Tuesday he's expected to make a full recovery.

The Ontario Fire Marshal was called in to investigate the cause of the blaze.

"At this point there is every indication that it's an accidental fire caused by the components of the electrical service panel," said investigator William Hay.
Ontario Fire Marshal investigator William Hay said 'components of the electrical service panel' at 24 Snowberry Way appear to be the cause of Monday's accidental fire. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Fire began at electrical panel

Hay said the investigation was unusual in that there were witnesses to the start of the fire. Residents of the home first noticed a smell of burning rubber, then discovered flames coming from an electrical panel in the basement.

Many of the large, two-storey homes on the winding suburban street were equipped with surge protectors when they were built in the 1990s, a selling feature for many buyers.

Investigator William Hay says people were in the home when the fire started. 0:34

Ontario's Fire Marshal and Electrical Safety Authority are now looking into whether the device did its job when power was returned to the neighbourhood yesterday following a storm-related blackout.

"There was a power loss to the grid, and a re-activation that could be involved," said Hay, who inspected some neighbouring homes where, though no fires started, there were signs of sparking.

"My understanding is they probably operated correctly and probably prevented a fire, in those cases," Hay said.
Neighbour Dana Laflamme says firefighters discovered the burn marks near his own electrical panel, where it seems his surge protector did its job. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Neighbour smelled smoke

Dana Laflamme was home between noon and 1 p.m. when he smelled smoke coming from next door.

"I went outside and saw smoke coming out of the neighbour's window," said Laflamme, whose own home sustained some damage from the fire.

Later, when firefighters inspected Laflamme's electrical panel, there were signs of a power surge.

"That's when I noticed the fry marks," he said. "The surge protector definitely saved the house."

Dana Laflamme's electrical panel now has a large burn mark beside it. 0:52

Witnessing the smouldering rubble that was his neighbour's home, Laflamme said Tuesday he was lucky.

"We just think that theirs caught up and thank God ours didn't, and along with a bunch of other neighbours."

Laflamme and his family spent Monday night with friends of Carp.

Hydro Ottawa workers and private subcontractors were still going door to door Tuesday, checking electrical meters and service panels.

Ottawa Fire Services estimated the damage to the home at 24 Snowberry Way at $750,000.

Hydro Ottawa workers continued to check houses on Snowberry Way Tuesday, near the scene of Monday's fire. (Stu Mills/CBC)