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Older homes, especially homes built before the 1960’s that have not been extensively renovated require special attention when it comes to fire safety. Modern building codes have been developed due to the lessons learned over time, essentially we have learned from our own mistakes. Many of the older homes in Russell are prime examples of old construction that no longer meet the current codes with regards to fire safety. We often refer to these buildings as “balloon construction” type houses, this refers to the fact that there are not any fire stops built into the wall framing, when a fire occurs in these buildings flames can shoot between the stud framing right up into the roof. The fire can then run anywhere it wants as it is often fueled by flammable insulation and many years of dust. When these homes catch fire the conditions can become extremely dangerous very quickly. The Ontario Building Code and Fire Code recognized these problems and implemented rules for construction, these rules make it so that fires can be compartmentalized more easily and don’t spread as quickly. Not to say that modern homes don’t burn, they do burn, but more slowly allowing the occupants more time to make their escape. Fires in modern homes are more likely to be fueled initially by the contents that they are by the building itself.
If you do live in an older home fire safety should be a primary concern, making sure you have working smoke alarms on each level as the law requires may still not be enough. Look for areas of the home that might benefit from an additional smoke alarm, crawl spaces and attics could be considered. These homes could also benefit from some of the newer technology currently available, such as; interconnected battery operated smoke alarms. These alarms function wirelessly like a hard-wired interconnected modern system without having to rewire the house. Having a fire escape plan that is both practical and well known by all the occupants is a must, make sure that there are alternate escape routes that are accessible during all seasons. This plan needs to be reexamined periodically as children grow or when people experience physical limitations.
If you are uncertain that you are prepared in the case of a house fire and need help, please contact the Russell Fire Department at (613) 445-3326 we would be glad to help you out.