Nova Scotia

Home that burned down, killing 7 children, had hardwired smoke detectors

A person familiar with the house says there were smoke detectors in all three bedrooms of 33 Quartz Drive, with several more on each level of the home.

Officials have not released any details about investigation into the cause of the fire

The fire damage is extensive from the back of the house. (Robert Short/CBC)

The Halifax-area house gutted Tuesday in an early morning fire that killed seven children was hardwired with multiple smoke detectors, according to a person familiar with the home's design.

The source, who asked to remain anonymous, told CBC News there were smoke detectors in all three bedrooms of 33 Quartz Dr. in Spryfield, with several more on each level of the detached, two-storey home.

Images of the home's interior were posted on the website of Picket Fence Homes, a developer with an office in Clayton Park.

The post, which was still accessible as of Wednesday night, described the property as "a lovely family home" that would be available for rent as of March 1. The Barho family had intended to move back to Elmsdale, N.S., where they had first settled after arriving in Canada from Syria in 2017.

Calls to Picket Fence Homes were not returned Wednesday.

The kitchen at 33 Quartz Drive in Halifax. (Picket Fence Homes)
 
A source familiar with the property told CBC News 33 Quartz Drive was heated entirely with electric baseboard heaters. (Picket Fence Homes)

The source told CBC News the home was heated entirely with electric baseboard heaters. All appliances, including the hot water heater, washers and dryers, and the stove were also electric.

A neighbour who witnessed the fire reported hearing a bang and a woman screaming in the early morning hours of Tuesday. Danielle Burt said she looked out the window to see flames coming out of the back door of 33 Quartz Dr.

An online map from Heritage Gas shows the street has no natural gas service. The closest natural gas line is more than 500 metres away from the home.

The source told CBC News the home had three bedrooms and two bathrooms on the top floor. That's also where the home's washer and dryer were situated.

Stairs to the basement at 33 Quartz Drive. (Pickett Fence Homes)

The master bedroom, at the front of the house, had a full bathroom and walk-in closet. Two bedrooms at the back were smaller, each able to accommodate a queen-sized bed, but with not much more room.

The main floor had wooden flooring and included a living room at the front, with an open kitchen and dining room at the back of the house.

There was a garage at the front of the home, along with a bathroom, a utility room, and a carpeted, windowless recreation room in the basement.

The home had three bedrooms and two bathrooms on the top floor, the source said. (Picket Fence Homes)

During a news conference Tuesday, deputy fire chief Dave Meldrum declined to say where firefighters recovered the bodies of the children. 

Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency has not released any details about its investigation into the cause of the fire. 

On Thursday, Meldrum reassured the public that the fire at 33 Quartz Dr. doesn't mean other similarly constructed homes are dangerous.

"We have no reason to believe there's an imminent risk to public safety," he said. "If we thought there was, we would be making announcements and doing public education."

New vs. old home construction

The home at 33 Quartz Dr. was a relatively new building. Its building permit was issued at the end of 2012.

Meldrum said while there are differences in construction methods between new homes and those built in the 1950s or '60s, both are safe.

He said new homes tend to have lightweight materials and smaller lumber that's joined with nailing plates. They may also have joists and beams made of laminate construction, with wood and glue together, Meldrum said.

Fire-resistant materials such as drywall help prevent fire from spreading.

"Sometimes if the fire can penetrate one of those barriers that reduces fire spread and if it can get to the lightweight structures in new home construction, we as firefighters know that the home can burn quickly. We're aware of that," Meldrum said.

Dave Meldrum, the deputy fire chief of Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency, said 'we have no reason to believe there's an imminent risk to public safety.' (CBC)

Older homes tend to use heavy timber that is so thick a roof may stay stable for 10 or 15 minutes during an attic fire, "whereas a new home construction the roof may actually fail much more quickly."

But Meldrum said new homes are built under new codes and are protected by alarm systems.

"So I don't want to leave anyone with the impression that new home construction is unsafe," he said.

Meldrum said all homeowners should ensure they have functioning smoke alarms and conduct regular maintenance on their furnace, electrical system and appliances.

A police spokesperson said there were no initial indications the fire was suspicious.

About the Author

Jack Julian

Reporter

Jack Julian joined CBC Nova Scotia as an arts reporter in 1997. His news career began on the morning of Sept. 3, 1998 following the crash of Swissair 111. He is now a data journalist in Halifax, and you can reach him at (902) 456-9180, by email at jack.julian@cbc.ca or follow him on Twitter @jackjulian

With files from Frances Willick and Olivier Lefebvre