A new campaign launched Wednesday by Vancouver’s fire department is aimed at raising awareness about the importance of having a working smoke alarm.
So far this year, Vancouver has seen a record-tying eight fire fatalities, with the most recent coming just last week when the victim in a Dec. 2 East Vancouver fire succumbed to his injuries.
“The majority of fire fatalities in Vancouver, Canada and across North America are directly linked to a lack of working smoke alarms, including alarms not present, alarms not functioning or alarms with the batteries or power source removed,” said Capt. Jonathan Gormick, public information officer with Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services.
He added that the majority of fire-related deaths are due to smoke inhalation and occur between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m.
“These are fatalities that happened because there’s nothing to wake occupants up in the early stages of a fire and they are overcome in their sleep with no chance of escaping,” Gormick said. “These are men, women and children that are dying needless, preventable deaths.”
Between 2001 and 2018 there were 62 fire-related deaths in the city and in 60 per cent of those cases the smoke detector was either absent or not working.
Assistant chief Ray Bryant highlighted two recent fires where several people escaped injury thanks to the presence of a working smoke detector.
“In the last two months, we’ve had two large house fires,” he said. “In both cases there were working smoke detectors in the homes and eight people were able to get out of the houses safely. Both those homes were total losses and there were no injuries to any people because of the early notification.”
In another case, firefighters were able to rescue someone from an apartment fire thanks to a working smoke alarm.
“We were able to get the notification early and save someone from their dwelling,” he said. “They were actually incapacitated because by health [problems], had they not had the early notification… I don’t believe they would have made it out alive.”
Under the fire bylaw, every home in the city is required to have a working smoke detector.
Gormick said the fire department does offer free home safety checks and smoke detectors through the Home Safety Check program.
“Owners, occupants and tenants, anyone can call 311 or go to wakeupvancouver.ca to book a free home safety check where our staff will make an appointment, review common home safety issues, answer any questions and install a free working smoke alarm,” he said.
The department has produced a series of five videos, called Wake Up Vancouver!, aimed at raising awareness about the importance of working smoke alarms and reducing the number of fire-related deaths.
The first video is now available on the department’s YouTube channel and will be broadcast on its social media channels.