Toronto

House fire that killed 4 showed Oshawa Fire Services understaffed, report says

A report on a January fire that killed four people in Oshawa, Ont., has outlined several deficiencies within the Oshawa Fire Services (OFS), including understaffing — and makes recommendations to prevent future tragedies like it.

‘We need extra staffing,’ president of Oshawa Professional Firefighters Association says

Peter Dyson, president of the Oshawa Professional Firefighters Association, says Oshawa Fire Services doesn’t follow the industry standard. (CBC)

A report on a January fire that killed four people in Oshawa, Ont., has outlined several deficiencies within the Oshawa Fire Services (OFS), including understaffing — and makes recommendations to prevent future tragedies like it.

The Oshawa Firefighters Union carried out an investigation into OFS's response to the Jan. 8 fire.

Steven Macdonald, 50, ran into the burning home  to save people stuck inside, then became trapped himself before dying along with a mother and two children.

Lindsey Bonchek, 36, and her daughter Madeline, 9, died in the blaze that gutted the two-storey downtown home. Bonchek's son Jackson, 4, was pulled from the fire but later died.

"Our association had been talking a long time about concerns we have about resource deployment in this city and this fire was the tipping point," Peter Dyson, president of the Oshawa Professional Firefighters Association, told CBC Toronto.

"This report confirmed our suspicion that Oshawa Fire Services doesn't follow the industry standard."

OFS firetrucks regularly deploy with four firefighters, the minimum required by industry standards.

But the report said the OFS should have an initial response of a minimum of 15 firefighters.

It said the OFS should also consider increasing staffing to five or six firefighters on frontline trucks to meet National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) staffing objectives for response to "tactical hazards, high-hazard occupancies, and dense urban areas."

In our line of work . . . minutes, seconds count.- Peter Dyson, president OPFA

"We don't send the proper amount of fire fighters to an initial alarm to a low hazard structure. A high hazard is 39 fire fighters, and right now we're staffed with 32 at one time," Dyson said.

"We need extra staffing because we don't meet NFPA in terms of our response times and getting to the different addresses within the city within the required time frame. In our line of work . . . minutes, seconds count."

He adds that the more people on the scene, the more quickly firefighters can perform their tasks.

Witnesses say the Jan. 8 fire spread rapidly, consuming the rear of the house. (Viewer video)

The report also recommended that the OFS address deficiencies in response capabilities in the areas of Oshawa where fires and other emergencies are most likely to happen.

Additionally, it is recommending that the OFS routinely perform risk and hazard assessments, and identify the potential threats to the community so that stakeholders and decision makers can make informed decisions.

"Now is the time that the city can heed this report. Let's work together and increase the level of protection for the citizens of Oshawa," Dyson said.

With files from Alison Chiasson