This past week the Russell Fire Department along with bylaw officers issued fines to two residences for smoke alarm offences, in both cases the infraction was for intentionally disabling a working smoke alarm. The residences are apartments in the same building and the Fire Department was asked to perform inspections at the request of the landlord. Captain Duane Bourguignon when inspecting the first home noticed a smoke alarm covered with tape, unfortunately a common problem in many rental units. Tenants often do this so that cigarette smoke doesn’t sound the alarm, unbeknownst to many they are actually breaking the law, and by doing so are subject to a $235.00 fine as was the case for this tenant.
The second apartment inspected resulted in another infraction; an electric alarm that was removed from the ceiling mount with the wires cut and placed on a shelf, even though the tenant insisted that the alarm was still operable because there was a back up battery, this too is considered disabling the alarm because the level of protection has been diminished. What was even more shocking was that this apartment is home to two small children. Captain Bourguignon also issued a fine to this tenant for one infraction of intentionally disabling a working smoke alarm. Fire Chief Bruce Armstrong backed his captain’s decision on these matters by stating; “In this day and age people should know better, especially people with children”. Chief Armstrong set down a plan a number of years ago that the Fire Department needed to take a tougher stance on negligence such as this, he added; “This is not like someone misunderstanding the intent of the law and missing an alarm on one level of their home, intentionally disabling a smoke alarm puts people, including my people in direct danger and the message has to be clear that this will not be tolerated in Russell”. Chief Armstrong’s stance is one that the Office of the Fire Marshall has been preaching for quite some time now, unfortunately the friendly reminders that many departments used in the past hasn’t impacted on a certain segment of society and too many lives are still being lost in homes without working smoke alarms.
The policy of issuing fines to noncompliant homes is not one that the fire department does in every case, a good example of this is during our annual spring door to door survey and smoke alarm inspection campaign. We do come across a number of noncompliant homes, but in most issues they are minor problems such as missing an alarm on one level of the home. In cases such as these we inform the owner that a return inspection will be done on a set date and that we expect the issue to be dealt with. In almost all cases the owner is grateful that the problem has been identified and enthusiastically corrects the situation. In the end if can ensure that our residents are properly protected then our goal of public safety has been achieved.
Published in the Villager newspaper December 23, 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.
Published in the Villager newspaper December 23, 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.