British Columbia

Fire officials remind public to check smoke alarms after fatality in Vancouver

It remains unclear whether the lack of a working smoke alarm played a role in Tuesday's fatal fire, but officials are using the tragedy as a reminder that fire deaths are often blamed on missing or malfunctioning smoke detectors.

Free safety checks available from Vancouver Fire and Rescue

Assistant Chief David Boone of Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services said he can't confirm that a fatality during a house fire on Tuesday would have been prevented by a smoke detector. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The fire started Tuesday morning at the house at the corner of Third Avenue and Skeena Street in East Vancouver. According to officials, it ignited in the garage, but by the time fire crews arrived, flames were leaping from every window in the house with black smoke rising into the air.

"You can see by the burn patterns inside the structure, it certainly was fully involved," said Assistant Chief David Boone of Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services on Wednesday as he stood in front of the home.

It wasn't until crews put the aggressive fire out that they made a grisly discovery — a middle-aged man was found dead in the charred home.

Tuesday's victim was the sixth person to be killed by a fire in Vancouver this year, and according to Boone, many of those deaths have been directly linked to smoke detectors that aren't working or have never been installed.

A large pile of charred luggage and other items was dragged outside by fire crews. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"Every residence must have [a smoke detector]. Suites must have alarms that are linked, and smoke alarms should be tested monthly and have their batteries changed twice a year," he said.

However, officials haven't been able to confirm whether the lack of a functioning smoke detector contributed to Tuesday's fatality — Boone said the investigation is ongoing.

Police tape surrounded the home on Wednesday, with Vancouver police parked on the street and in the alley.

The assistant chief said the fire has been deemed accidental, but he wouldn't say how it began in the garage. On Wednesday, a hulking pile of burned suitcases and other items could be seen on the driveway. Boone said the luggage was dragged out of the garage by crews either during the effort to extinguish the fire or during the investigation afterwards.

Matt Covey says many of the false alarms are caused by smoke detectors going off when they shouldn't. (r.classen/Shutterstock)

Boone said the tragedy serves as a reminder to ensure basic fire preparedness and planning at home, as well as prevention.

He said people should never leave cooking unattended, should make sure up-to-date fire extinguishers are easy to grab in the kitchen and make sure they have an escape route planned.

Boone emphasized the need to have working smoke detectors, saying Vancouver residents can call 311 to request a free fire safety inspection by Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services staff, who can supply a free, functioning smoke detector if necessary.

Follow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker

About the Author

Rafferty Baker is CBC Vancouver's mobile journalist. Follow him @raffertybaker