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No working smoke alarms in deadly house fire

A memorial forms for the victims of Monday’s fire outside the home at 116 Centre Street North. (Photo by Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express).

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

After further investigation, it’s been determined that there were in fact no working smoke alarms inside the house at 116 Centre Street North when it went up in flames on Monday morning, leading to the deaths of four people, two of them young children.

The blaze erupted around 8 a.m. on Jan. 8 in Oshawa’s downtown, and led to the deaths of a mother and her two children, along with one man, who after saving his pregnant daughter, rushed back into the burning building to try and save others, but never made it back out.

Speaking outside the charred skeleton of the home, Oshawa Fire Chief Derrick Clark, and Rick Derstroff, a fire investigations supervisor with the Ontario Fire Marshal, provided a somber and emotional update to what they’d uncovered in the days since the blaze.

Most troubling, and frustrating for the fire prevention officers, was the lack of working smoke alarms in the home.

“That is a very frustrating situation for all of us involved in this because this is a preventable tragedy that shouldn’t happen, not in today’s day and age, with the technology that we have, with the safety systems we have in place, and the fire services that we have,” Derstroff said. “I want to stress the importance of fire safety and the importance for the occupants, tenants, (and) landlords to take fire safety seriously. We’re having far too many deaths and fatalities and it shouldn’t happen.”

Witnesses of the fire reported that the flames quickly consumed the lower floors of the house as people began fleeing the home. Investigators have determined that the fire originated on the main floor of the building and in the kitchen, however the direct cause of the fire has yet to be determined.

Derstroff also addressed the early witness reports that there was an explosion that may have led to the fire.

“There could be lots of reasons why people report explosions, there could be breaking glass, a fire makes lots of noise, it’s a very violent production, and we also have some aerosol containers which we found,” he said.

At this point, Derstroff said it is too early to determine whether charges will be filed due to the lack of smoke alarms.

While becoming visibly upset, he took the opportunity to stress the importance of early detection in the event of a fire.

“The fire service can respond as quickly as possible, they can have the best equipment, the best man power, a very dedicated fire prevention staff to educate people, but if you don’t have early warning, early detection of a fire, you’re in a bad situation and the fire service won’t be in a position to save you,” he said. “When the fire’s already raging, it’s too late, because the smoke will get you, the heat can get you, or the fire can get you, so the point is to have the early detection available so that you can get out and stay out.”

The Oshawa Express will provide updates on this story as the become available.