Condo eyes smoking ban after devastating fire

Should condo buildings ban smoking, even in individual units? It's a question in the minds of many following an $8-million fire caused by a forgotten cigarette in west Edmonton Monday.
The fire at the South Hampton condo complex broke out around 1 a.m. Monday. (Michael Caldararu)

Some of those left homeless following a massive fire that tore through a west Edmonton condo earlier this week would like to see their building ban smoking.

That's following the news that officials say the fire was caused by a cigarette. 

"I don't know where I'm going from here now … this is my home," said Rozmina Rhemu's, who bought his condo as a retirement investment.

She says the loss is made more devastating knowing the cause of the fire: a cigarette butt stubbed out in a planter.

"I was very angry.”

The fire, which caused $8 million in damage, isn’t the only one blamed on a forgotten cigarette. Smoking materials are the third-leading cause of fires in the city, and firefighters say they can be some of the most dangerous blazes to fight.

It’s caused many condo boards to ban smoking outright, prohibiting owners from even smoking in their own units.

The possibility of a smoking ban will be discussed by residents of the west Edmonton building.

The fact that the condo board did not already have a smoking ban in place means it will be hard to sue or press charges against the smoker responsible for the fire, according to lawyer Roberto Noce.

"Being stupid is very different from being criminally responsible," he said.

Noce says the provincial government should consider banning smoking when it tackles its new condo property act in the fall.

"The reality is, where there's smoke there's generally fire,” he said.

“From a health and safety perspective and from a quality of life perspective, it makes sense to be smoke-free."

It’s a move that finds supporters among many of the people living in the burnt-out complex who lost homes and belongings, like Rhemu.

"Oh I'm definitely in favour of a ban. Big time. I'll be the first one to sign on there."