Fire officials offer safety advice as students head back to school

Toronto Fire Services is encouraging students, especially those moving into off-campus residences, to pay special attention to fire safety in their new homes. The reminder comes after a fatal fire killed an 18-year-old international student in a Scarborough rooming house in May.

International students unaware of prevention methods, focus of new initiative by Fire Services

Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said students moving into off-campus residents should think about fire safety. (Susan Goodspeed/CBC)

Toronto Fire Services is encouraging students who are headed back to school in September, and are moving into off-campus homes, to practise fire safety and prevention tactics.

The awareness campaign kicked off Wednesday after a fire at a Scarborough rooming house in May killed 18-year-old Helen Guo, an international student from China who was studying at the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC.)

"We're at that point where a lot of people are moving back into off-campus housing so they're leaving home, they're moving into a facility or apartment or room that is different to them and not necessarily up to code and up to standard," said Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg.

In partnership with Enbridge, Pegg says Fire Services has produced a pamphlet that students can use to ensure the home they are moving into is fire safe.

Students can go through a checklist that outlines fire preventative measures they should look for in a home, such as whether there is a smoke alarm on every floor of the home and that it's working, or ensuring that each floor has at least two exits.

"All too frequently, we still encounter circumstances where there aren't working smoke alarms in the building. That doesn't give the residents that early detection and early notification time for them to escape the fire."

Initiative focuses on international students

In light of Guo's death, Pegg said the focus of the initiative is on the large influx of international students who come into the city every year.

"We often take for granted that people understand you call 911 for emergency services."

On May 30th, Guo was in her home on Haida Court, near Ellesmere Road and Military Trail, that she shared with three other international students when a fire erupted.

Helen Guo was an undergraduate international student from China studying at the University of Toronto Scarborough campus. (Facebook)

The other three occupants, who are also U of T students, managed to escape, one by jumping out of a second story window. Guo was left inside.

Three months after the fire, Pegg said on Wednesday that the origin of the fatal fire has not yet been determined.

"We haven't received a detailed origin and cause information from the provincial fire investigators yet."

UTSC students say fire safety isn`t a priority

Several UTSC students spoke to the CBC and said when they or their friends are moving into an off-campus home, the stress of finding a home in Toronto leaves them little room to think about fire safety.

"I don`t know if students know the in depth of what really to look for when they are looking for a house to rent," said Miranda To, a third year life science student at UTSC.

According to Pegg, landlords are required by the law to have a smoke alarm on every floor but students say that's something many may not know.

"When a scare happens like the one that recently happened back in May, that definitely opens people's eyes more," said Deena Hassan, a UTSC student.