Nova Scotia

Fire-prevention problems found at schools

Nova Scotia fire inspectors have found deficiencies at all but one of the 38 elementary schools inspected last year, CBC News has learned.

Nova Scotia fire inspectors have found deficiencies at all but one of the 38 elementary schools inspected last year, CBC News has learned.

CBC requested the reports after an all-party committee of the legislature was told that inspectors are halfway through their reviews of the 131 elementary schools in the province.

According to the documents, the problems range from too much clutter or shelves blocking heaters, to rooms without fire detectors or fixtures installed too close to sprinkler heads.

In most cases, inspectors are finding only a handful of problems per school. But there are notable exceptions.

Islands Consolidated in Freeport has the single largest number of deficiencies, at 14. One problem is the propane tanks, which the fire marshal wanted removed because of their poor condition.

The principal of the school says those tanks are empty and no longer in use.

At nearby Digby Neck Consolidated, which is home to 37 students, the fire marshal recommends every ceiling tile in the building be replaced or covered over with more flame-retardant material.

Westport Elementary, another school in the area, has no fire barrier between floors.

Steve Stoddart, with the Tri-County Regional School Board, said the three schools are older buildings in remote locations.

"I guess maybe the fire deficiencies they've never been upgraded over the years and they met the fire code of the day," he told CBC News.

The Annapolis Valley Regional School Board may also have to spend money to meet updated fire codes, since the fire marshal is recommending sprinklers in the library at Wolfville School.

The district had the only problem-free school: Newport Station near Windsor.

Harold Pothier, acting fire marshal, said older schools tend to have more deficiencies.

"The newer schools don't have these problems yet. But as time goes on we're finding the issues that are occurring in the newer schools as well as the equipment is used and it becomes worn," he said.

Pothier said schools boards are co-operating and striving to comply with the recommendations.

The 38 elementary schools were reviewed between May and this month. Dozens more have been inspected, but CBC was told those reports are not available yet.

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