Firefighters stress the importance of home escape plan in wake of Halifax tragedy

Residents can call Kincardine fire department with questions about smoke alarms, evacuation plans


By Barb McKay


A recent fire in Halifax that claimed the lives of seven children has prompted local fire officials to once again spread the message about the importance of fire prevention and having a home escape plan.


The cause of the fire that tore through the two-storey suburban home of a family sponsored to come to Canada from Syria in 2017 is still unknown. According to a report published by the CBC on Thursday, the home had electric baseboard heaters. It also had hardwired smoke detectors.


The tragic results of the house fire in Halifax are the worst case scenario when a fire occurs, and Municipality of Kincardine Fire Chief Kent Padfield and Fire Prevention Officer Shane Watson want residents here to understand that being prepared saves lives.


“There is still a mentality that this won’t happen to me,” said Watson.


The fact is, there were more than 100 fire-related deaths in Ontario in 2018. Since the start of this year, eight people have died in fires in the province. In the majority of cases, Padfield said, fire-related deaths are preventable.


“With our technology in fire safety, people should not be dying in house fires,” he said.


Evacuating a house quickly and safely in the event of a fire requires two things – a working smoke alarm and a home escape plan that everyone in the home is familiar with.


“Those things go hand in hand,” Watson said. “If you don’t have working smoke alarms your home escape plan won’t work.”


Smoke alarms should be tested monthly to make sure they are operating properly and checked annually for expiration dates. Watson said many people don’t realize that smoke alarms, even hardwired alarms, expire after 10 years. It is also important to know that not all smoke detectors are the same. Ionization smoke alarms are more sensitive to flaming fires while photoelectric smoke alarms are more sensitive to smouldering fires. Smoke alarms that are dual ionization and photoelectric are available.


Smoke alarms should be installed on every floor and outside bedrooms. Homes with attached garages and energy sources such as natural gas should also have carbon monoxide detectors close to bedrooms.


Every household should also have a home escape plan that everyone in the home is knowledgeable about.


“When smoke alarms go off there’s just minutes to get out,” Padfield said.


Home escape plans should be reviewed annually or anytime there are new additions to the household or visitors staying in the home.


Watson encourages anyone with questions about smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, home escape plans or fire prevention to call the fire hall at any time (519-396-2141). The fire department will come out and do free home fire safety inspections and will assist with home escape plans. The fire department is also working with local realtors to present fire department packages to new home owners with fire safety checklists and information about home escape planning.