Owner of Port Colborne home where family died in 2016 fire convicted and fined $100K
Nelly Engelage found guilty of failing to maintain and regularly test smoke alarms
The owner of a Port Colborne home where four family members were killed in a December 2016 fire has been found guilty of failing to comply with Ontario's fire code and fined more than $100,000.
Nelly Engelage was convicted in Provincial Offences Court on Wednesday of failing to maintain smoke alarms and failing to test smoke alarms on a regular basis, according to Port Colborne fire chief Tom Cartwright.
She was fined $50,000 for each offence —the maximum amount allowed by law— plus a 25 per cent victim surcharge.
The charges were laid after a fire ripped through the Nickle Street home Tammy Burd, her two children and their grandmother were living in as tenants.
After days of searching, firefighters pulled the bodies of all four of the home's residents from the charred wreckage.
More than 100 people from the close-knit town attended the funeral where Burd, her 15-year-old daughter Samantha and two-year-old son Josh were all buried in a single casket.
Cartwright was among the first to arrive at the scene more than a year ago and said although the fire left its mark on the city, his crews are still finding homes that aren't fire-safe.
"There was a huge effect on the community, but it's still somewhat of a confusing situation because I just can't believe the number of places we're going to and finding smoke alarms that aren't working, or are expired or aren't installed properly."
The chief said fire safety inspection teams are only finding about 40 per cent of homes in compliance with the province's fire code. That means the majority won't be prepared if their homes ever go up in flames.
"I don't know what it's going to take to make sure people understand," he said. "Let's face it. Four people died and our statistics, quite frankly, suck."
Cartwright added he's hopeful Engelage's conviction will send a message that finally gets through to homeowners.
"Property owners, particularly property owners that rent, have an obligation to ensure that their buildings are fire safe," he said. "Fire kills and you should do everything possible to try to prevent it from happening to you and your family."