Family of teen killed in fire leads call for better inspections in Windsor

The family of a student who died in a west-end fire are calling for better fire inspections in Windsor following what they describe as "misleading" information from Windsor Fire and Rescue.

'This is not something your city can be proud of,' says mother of student who died in 2016

Jennifer Depooter is leading the call for better fire inspections in Windsor following the 2016 death of her son Andrew Kraayenbrink. (Jason Viau/CBC)

The family of a student who died in a west-end fire are calling for better fire inspections in Windsor following what they describe as "misleading" information from Windsor Fire and Rescue.

Andrew Kraayenbrink was killed in a fire on Rankin Avenue in 2016.

A report from the Ontario Fire Marshall's office recently released a report stating a "required" smoke alarms on the main floor of the house the engineering student was living in was missing. But while Windsor fire officials concede the smoke detector wasn't in the best location, they stated its placement wasn't wrong either.

Investigators determined no charges would be laid.

Aaron Kraayenbrink , 17, holds up two pages from the Ontario Fire Marshall's report into the fire that killed his older brother. (Jason Viau/CBC)

On Monday, Andrew's mother, Jennifer Depooter, and area landlords held a press conference calling for improved inspections in the city and a residential rental license for landlords.

Depooter said she's not looking to file any formal complaints or push for charges — she just wants to prevent another family from losing a loved one.

"Lives have been on the line in Windsor," she said, adding the city had the highest fire fatality rate for the years 2012, 2013, 2014 and second highest in 2015 and 2016.

Depooter pointed to two paragraphs in the OFM's report referencing the "required" smoke detector that Windsor's Chief Fire Prevention Officer John Lee did not read to council.

Windsor fire deputy chief Andrea DeJong said Lee "simply answered the question he was asked."

She said when she walked through the home following the fire that killed her son she noticed the area where a smoke alarm was placed was nearly untouched, while the stairs up to her son's room where the OFM said the detector should be were "literally destroyed."

"Everything was burnt off," she explained. "As soon as he (Andrew) opened the door the smoke was there."

Licensing agreements 'save lives'

Longtime west-end landlord Mike Cardinal has been working to have a rental licensing agreement in the city for years.

He joined Depooter Monday and a license for landlords has "proven to save lives" in other communities, such as Waterloo where more than 3700 units have been licensed in the past five years with more than 1,500 charges laid.

Cardinal told parents looking at rental housing for their children to always check for smoke detectors and fire extinguishers, fire blankets and whether there are at least two exits for every room.

"It doesn't matter how clean or big a room is if you're not getting out alive," he said. "We don't want to send anyone else home in a body bag, but there's a way to get ahead of this and educate amateur landlords," he added.

Windsor City Council recently considered licensing for landlords but couldn't come to a decision, so the matter was deferred. 

Council is expected to pick up the debate again and vote on the issue early in the new year.

Mother says city needs to do more

"I sent my son to your city for an education ... had I known these numbers, these statistics for your city, my son would never have attended university here," Depooter added. "The city right now, as it stands, is not set up for safe housing for students. If your child is coming to Windsor go through that house with a fine-toothed comb because no one else is doing that."

Depooter's 17-year-old son is scouting out universities to attend next year. After his brother died in a student rental unit, he's now paying close attention to how safe his apartment will be before he signs a lease.

"The fatality rate for fires in Windsor is phenomenal," Depooter added. "This is not something your city can be proud of."