Vancouver firefighters doubled down on the basics of emergency preparedness Wednesday morning, 24 hours after the city’s sixth fire-related death of 2018.
Standing in front of an almost completely gutted house on Skeena Street and East Third Avenue, assistant chief David Boone emphasized the need for multiple checks and balances that need monitoring on a monthly basis.
“Never leave cooking unattended. Have working smoke alarms and working carbon monoxide alarms and extinguishers in an accessible spot in the kitchen,” Boone said. “And have an escape plan if a fire should occur in your residence.”
Boone offered few specifics around the who and the how of Tuesday’s fire — the identity of the victim wasn’t disclosed and the cause hasn’t been determined. The victim was described as a middle aged male and the fire originated in the garage.
No one else was in the home when crews arrived around 9 a.m. Aug 7.
The victim wasn’t found until close to 40 firefighters had the blaze contained. The stench of smoke and charred building materials still permeated the air around the home a day later.
“This is another reminder of what the effects are to people’s safety by not having good smoke detectors,” Boone said.
The assistant chief wouldn’t specify if the house had a working fire alarm. The home is a standard “Vancouver Special,” a two-storey home with what appeared to be a basement suite likely built between the mid-1960s and mid-1980s.
Statistics provided to the Courier point to 55 fire-related deaths in Vancouver between 2001 and 2016. The leading cause of death during that timeframe — 18 — was attributed to “smokers materials,” presumably cigarettes or embers from an ashtray.
In 18 of those 55 fires no smoke alarms were present. Thirteen fires happened in secondary suites without smoke alarms.
Close to half of those fatal fires happened between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Boone said the current heat wave had little effect on the cause of Tuesday’s fire. Instead, the contents in a home and the available ventilation are contributing factors.
“[Heat] certainly plays a role in the ability of our firefighters to perform their duties in this extreme heat with all the clothing they’re wearing for protective gear. They’re taxed much sooner because of that environment than it hey would on a cold winter day.”
Anyone in need of fire tips or a free smoke alarm can call the city’s 311 information line.