Toronto

Do you know the fire code? How Toronto tenant advocates are trying to combat fire safety confusion

The Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations is working on an upcoming fire code overview designed specifically for tenants that it hopes to release on its website in July.

Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations releasing fire code overview for tenants in July

The Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations gets hundreds of calls every year about fire safety issues, says executive director Geordie Dent. (Vedran Lesic)

Did you know homes must have one carbon monoxide detector per sleeping unit?

Or that fire escapes in low-rises must be made up of metals or other non-combustible materials?

Or that landlords are not required to provide fire extinguishers in kitchens?

If you didn't, you're not alone. That's all in the province's fire code, according to the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations. But executive director Geordie Dent said tenants often feel left in the dark.

The FMTA gets "hundreds" of calls a year from tenants trying to figure out fire safety issues, he told CBC Toronto. With that in mind, the group is working on an upcoming fire code overview designed specifically for tenants that it hopes to release on its website in July.

"The problem with this is this isn't a minor issue. It's not a small broken appliance — this is whether or not your entire place could go up in smoke," Dent said.

The guide is also inspired, in part, by recent headline-making blazes, including the Grenfell tower fire in London, where at least 79 people perished inside the 24-storey apartment building on June 14.

And there are problems closer to home, as well.

"A lot of the older buildings have infrastructure problems," Dent said. "They're worried about transformers or about electrical systems that are out of date."

A fire broke out overnight in March at the Arleta Manor Toronto Community Housing building on Arleta Avenue. (Michael Cole/CBC News)

3 fires at Toronto highrises in February

Several fires shook Toronto just this year, including three at highrises in the downtown core in February alone that led to one death and multiple injuries.

The following month, one person was injured during a fire at the Arleta Manor low-rise complex near Sheppard Avenue West.

The area's long-time councillor, Maria Augimeri, praised the FMTA for working to get more information into the hands of tenants, and said the city needs to do more, as well.

"In the City of Toronto, we're building more and more highrises," she said. "Every few months, we get more and more applications before us. Are we prepared? No, we're not."

There have also been at least 27 fires in Toronto so far this year caused by carelessly discarded cigarettes from units above that landed on balconies below and ignited combustible material, according to Toronto Deputy Fire Chief Jim Jessop.

It's all potential cause for concern for tenants, but Dent hopes the upcoming guide at least boosts their knowledge of what the fire code entails.

The guide will share how to deal with a fire violation in a building, how to tell if something's not up to code and how to handle the complaints process, Dent said.

"We're trying to give tenants the tools to better understand what is risky in terms of what the law is, and how to address it."