Manitoba

Fire inspectors to visit rooming houses with shared facilities once a year

Winnipeg fire inspectors plan to visit licensed rooming houses with shared washrooms and kitchens at least once a year in response to a council directive to improve safety in what are officially known as "converted residential dwellings."

Other licensed rooming houses to be inspected once every 2.5 years; report follows directive to beef up safety

This North Point Douglas rooming house was engulfed in fire in July. Police said 15 people were inside when the fire broke out and 13 escaped. (Submitted by Joshua Peterson)

Winnipeg fire inspectors plan to visit licensed rooming houses with shared washrooms and kitchens at least once a year in response to a council directive to improve safety in what are officially known as "converted residential dwellings."

In a report to council's protection committee, the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service says fire inspectors can visit licensed rooming houses with shared areas once a year without requiring additional resources, but rooming houses without shared facilities — that is, where each unit has its own washroom and kitchen — will be inspected once every 30 months.

Fire inspectors to visit rooming houses with shared facilities once a year

6 years ago
Duration 1:53
Winnipeg fire inspectors plan to visit licensed rooming houses with shared washrooms and kitchens at least once a year in response to a council directive to improve safety in what are officially known as "converted residential dwellings."

The licensed rooming houses with shared kitchens and bathrooms need to be inspected more frequently because they "are generally associated with a higher risk" and "often the tenant's 'room' may serve additional purposes other than sleeping and living quarters," fire-prevention manager Janet Bier and bylaw-enforcement manager Winston Yee wrote in the report.

Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Chief John Lane said cooking inside rooms is a particular risk in facilities with shared kitchens.

He also said people without their own kitchens may not be as attentive to what's going on in the shared facilities.

"Just try to put yourself in that situation. You go in and put something on the stove to cook it and then you need to go back and get something else that you left in your room and then you get distracted and next thing you know, that's on fire," Lane said at city hall.

Fire inspectors will also continue to investigate every report about unlicensed rooming houses, which are illegal in Winnipeg, Bier and Yee wrote in their report.

"Increasingly the public service's approach is to order the property owner to cease operations in the short term until the required zoning, building code, and licensing requirements are met," they wrote, adding they expect complaints about illegal rooming houses to increase as 311 implements a new screening process designed to ensure the fire-paramedic service and other city departments are made aware of the illegal dwellings.

City council voted in July to inspect rooming houses more frequently, following the deaths of two people in a North Point Douglas rooming house.

As of June 15, the city had 217 licensed rooming houses with shared kitchens or bathrooms and 597 with separate facilities, according to the report published today.

South Winnipeg-St. Norbert Coun. Janice Lukes, who seconded the council motion calling on the city to conduct more inspections, said while she is pleased to see some rooming houses inspected more frequently she still wants to know how much it would cost to hire enough fire inspectors to visit both types of rooming houses once a year.

Lane said his staff did not investigate what that would cost.

The city has also reached a deal with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority to allow its staff to let the city know when they encounter substandard housing.

Sel Burrows of the Point Douglas Residents Association applauded the entire plan, starting with the annual inspections of the shared-facility rooming houses.

  "The rooming houses with the shared bathrooms and the shared kitchens are where the most vulnerable people live. These are the ones where we set out to have improved living conditions for and now improved safety for them," he said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bartley Kives

Senior reporter, CBC Manitoba

Bartley Kives joined CBC Manitoba in 2016. Prior to that, he spent three years at the Winnipeg Sun and 18 at the Winnipeg Free Press, writing about politics, music, food and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba.

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