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Careless Smoking Causes Two Deaths

Earlier this month in Scarborough Ontario two young women were killed and a young man suffered burns to sixty percent of his body from what appears to be a case of careless smoking. Investigators from the Fire Marshalís office are reporting that the fire appears to have started in a bedroom with a mattress being the primary ignition source, unfortunately the damage was so extensive that investors have been left with very little to base their findings on. However their experience in matters like this has lead them to the conclusion reached. Unfortunately careless smoking is still the leading cause (excluding arson and undetermined sources) for preventable fatal fires in Ontario, and has been for over ten years. Since 2005 careless smoking has on average been responsible for 16 deaths per year in Ontario, more than double that of cooking which results in an average of 7 deaths per year. Since the year 2000, careless smoking has been responsible for 17% of all the fatal fires in Ontario, only fires started by undetermined sources account for more. However it must be assumed that a number of the undetermined fires must also be the result of careless smoking so the number is likely even higher.


Recently companies that own multi-dwelling rental properties have begun to designate certain buildings smoke-free, in most instances this is phased in over time as tenants turn over. A few communities in the United States have even gone as far as issuing by-laws to make all multi-unit dwellings smoke-free, such is the case in Belmont California. The smoke-free designations, whether they be issued by the landlord or municipality have been done for health reasons, not for reasons related to fire safety. However a recent controversy about this matter was raised in the city Ottawa when Ottawa Fire Service Division Chief of Prevention; Steve Armstrong stated publicly that smoking bans in multi-unit dwellings will likely increase the instance of smoking related fires as opposed to reducing them. His reasoning is that he feels tenants who currently smoke on their balconies will continue to light-up indoors to hide the fact that they are smoking. In Mr. Armstrongís opinion this will lead to more accidental smoking related fires not less.  He may end up being correct, but the city of Ottawa has had 24 fires as the result of careless smoking this year, 12 of which occurred in multi-unit dwellings, possibly its time something was tried, even a smoking ban. If it turns out that this is done, the tobacco industry and the groups they fund to represent smokersí rights will no doubt rally to the cause claiming that these restrictions infringe upon a personís right to choose. However donít people who live in multi-unit dwellings have the right to live in a safe building without someone else infringing upon their right to breathe clean air?


Published in The Villager newspaper, November 24, 2010.


No part of this article can be reprinted or reproduced in any form without the expressed written consent of The Russell Fire Department's Public Education Division.

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