Winnipeg councillors move to increase rooming-house inspections after fatal fire
Activist Sel Burrows urges more frequent fire inspections, as well
City hall set the wheels in motion Monday to ensure bylaw officers visit rooming houses more often.
Council's protection, community services and parks committee voted Monday afternoon to give city bylaw officers three months to figure out how to reallocate their resources in a manner that ensures rooming houses are inspected at least once a year.
Couns. Ross Eadie (Mynarski) and Janice Lukes (South Winnipeg-St. Norbert) authored the motion to ensure general living conditions are adequate. They did so before a house fire in North Point Douglas claimed the lives of Brenda Campbell, 51, and John McKinnon Bendon, 61.
Inner-city activist Sel Burrows praised the effort as complementary to parallel efforts to increase the frequency of fire inspections, as well.
Burrows, who chairs the Point Douglas Residents Committee, said Winnipeg has one of the best neighbourhood livability bylaws in North America. It only needs to be enforced, he said.
"It's one of the most powerful tools we have," Burrows said in an appearance before the committee on Monday morning.
City bylaw-enforcement manager Winston Yee said the city is already studying what resources are available to increase rooming-house inspections. Most of the structures informally known as rooming houses are converted residential dwellings, he said.
Police say arson is suspected in last week's fire on Austin Street North, and they are investigating the two deaths as homicides. The city conducted a fire inspection of that rooming house in 2014.
Burrows said while fire inspections cannot prevent arson, they can ensure smoke alarms and fire extinguishers are working and make sure tenants can exit residences unimpeded.
Fire inspections save lives, he said.
"The minimum standard should be an annual fire inspection," he said. "We've lost a lot of wonderful human beings to rooming-house fires over the last year."
Burrows said the city could levy fees to help pay for rooming-house inspections, as it does for other forms of fire inspections. Bier said she was amenable to that idea.