Fire safety still lacking in First Nation homes

Nearly half the homes on Long Plain First Nation still don't have working smoke detectors — more than a month since a two-year-old boy died in a house fire on the Manitoba reserve.

Nearly half the homes inspected on Long Plain First Nation still don't have working smoke detectors — more than a month since a two-year-old boy died in a fire on the Manitoba reserve.

Fire officials are conducting a safety audit of every home in the community following the death of Curtis Laporte.

The toddler was pulled from a burning house on May 1 but attempts to revive him at the scene were unsuccessful.

Fire Chief Randy Merrick vowed to ensure every home in Long Plain, about 100 west of Winnipeg, was up to code. So far he's been through 160 homes and has another 200 to go.

Merrick told CBC News that most homes have an evacuation plan in place but hardly any have fire extinguishers.

Smoke detectors disabled

Most homes are equipped with smoke detectors, half of them have no batteries. Residents in those homes told Merrick they disabled the detectors because they were too sensitive.

"We're just suggesting to them that no matter what happens, just leave it and let it do its job," he said.

The fire department is hoping to address the lack of fire extinguishers by finding money to get one into every home.

"And then we're also going to do a follow-up with the extinguishers' inspection tags and someone from the fire department will drop by once a month and check the extinguisher," said Merrick.

He has also instituted weekly equipment training sessions for the fire department.

Long Plain resident Lorriane Myron said she has been impressed with the fire department's efforts.

"We've never [before] had anybody like Randy come into our homes and say, 'well this could be done and make sure this is done,'" she said.

Nearly one quarter of fire fatalities in Manitoba occur on First Nations.

With his inspection program, Merrick hopes those numbers on Long Plain drop significantly.

The fire on May 1 was spotted around 10:15 p.m. by RCMP officers patrolling in the area of the reserve.

Officers arrived at the home to find a father and two of his young children, aged four and five, standing outside. He told them another child was still in the home.

When Curtis was brought out by firefighters through a window, he was crying, but soon lost consciousness and never recovered.