Recently, 11 homes were destroyed in a townhouse complex in Stoney Creek, Ontario. The good news is that there were no injuries or deaths as a result of the fire. The bad news is that 11 families lost their personal effects, are without a home, and now must deal with insurance companies and all the post-fire challenges. With everyone already experiencing added stress from the pandemic, this is not what these families needed.
The fire department stated that high winds helped spread the fire from the unit of origin to the next townhouse complex. Both buildings were faced with brick, however, there were windows located in both exterior walls which may have provided a point of entry for the fire to jump from the first townhouse complex to the second one. The heat from the fire, assisted by the strong winds, may have also contributed to the fire spreading through the soffit into the roof area where it would quickly run the length of the building.
Over the next several months, the homeowners, fire department, insurance companies and lawyers will try to analyze the situation and move forward. Were the buildings constructed to code? Were the condo complexes too close? How long was the fire burning before it was detected, and the fire department was notified? Were there factors that impacted the fire department’s response? Or was it simply a case that the high winds caused the fire to spread at such a high rate that the adjacent condo complex could not be saved? While everyone is looking for a theory that explains the loss of 11 homes, one reason we find ourselves in this position is the fact that these two buildings were not sprinklered.
Residential sprinklers, designed and installed in accordance with the NFPA 13R standard, would likely have controlled the fire at the incipient stage. In all cases, the home of origin would have been damaged but those damages would have been limited to a single condo and not 11 condos. Residential sprinklers for a townhouse, would at the time of construction, add about $5000.00 to the price of the home, which is equivalent to about 1% of the overall cost of the home. Residential sprinklers save lives, especially those of seniors who are less mobile and children who tend to sleep through alarms. The year is 2020, the technology is readily available for reducing fire loss and saving lives in our communities. The question is, do we have the social and political will to make residential sprinklers a reality?