Guy Street fire linked to smoking materials

Cornwall firefighters were called to this home on Guy Street on July 28, 2015. The fire, which caused extensive damage to the kitchen, is blamed on careless discarding of smoking materials. (Cornwall Newswatch/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – The kitchen of a rental home on Guy Street has extensive damage following a noon hour fire on Tuesday.

Firefighters and an ambulance were called to a single-storey house, just north of the intersection of Guy Street and Third Street.

There were no injuries and a dog and cat inside the home were safe.

In an unprecedented move and with permission from the homeowner, Cornwall Fire Chief Pierre Voisine took Cornwall Newswatch behind the fire line to show the cause of the fire – the careless discarding of smoking materials.

“People need to see this stuff,” the chief said.

These type of fires have been Chief Pierre Voisine’s goal to snuff out, launching a task force and hotline on June 19 to encourage people to report friends, relatives or family members who may have risky smoking behaviour.

At the time of the hotline launch, the department has already responded to 14 major structure fires in Cornwall, half attributed to careless use of smoking materials. Four people died in those fires.

In this case, fire officials believe a cigarette, butted out in a flower bed caught the peat moss on fire and it carried through a brick vent into the wall inside the kitchen.

A Cornwall firefighter points to the air vent between the bricks where an errant butted-out cigarette in the flower bed caught fire and travelled through the vent into the kitchen of this Guy Street home on July 28, 2015. (Cornwall Newswatch/Bill Kingston)
A Cornwall firefighter points to the air vent between the bricks where an errant butted-out cigarette in the flower bed caught fire and travelled through the vent into the kitchen of this Guy Street home on July 28, 2015. (Cornwall Newswatch/Bill Kingston)

Voisine said the tenant was doing the right thing by discarding their smoking materials outside – the problem was where they were being butted out.

“I don’t understand how we’re not burning these places to the ground,” a frustrated fire chief expressed, while commending his staff for being able to minimize the damage through a quick response.

The resulting damage from a fire at this Guy Street home in Cornwall, Ont. on July 28, 2015. The fire chief said the improper discarding of a cigarette in a flower bed, which backs on this damaged wall, is the cause of the fire. (Cornwall Newswatch/Bill Kingston)
The resulting damage from a fire at this Guy Street home in Cornwall, Ont. on July 28, 2015. The fire chief said the improper discarding of a cigarette in a flower bed, which backs on this damaged wall, is the cause of the fire. (Cornwall Newswatch/Bill Kingston)

Voisine showed CNW the back of the home where cigarettes were being put in a metal can. “Another inappropriate dispensing method is…that’s where the discarded cigarettes usually go, right next to cardboard. This was a matter of time because these could have easily (caught fire and) gone into the eaves and into the attic,” the chief said.

Fire Chief Pierre Voisine pointed out another location where cigarettes were being improperly discarded. The can of butts is under the eaves of this home on Guy Street and right next to combustible cardboard recycling. (Cornwall Newswatch/Bill Kingston)
Fire Chief Pierre Voisine pointed out another location where cigarettes were being improperly discarded. The can of butts is under the eaves of this home on Guy Street and right next to combustible cardboard recycling. (Cornwall Newswatch/Bill Kingston)

“The odds are that this is where it should have started. This is the problem we’re dealing with here. This is the bread and butter fire in this city. Our guys run to these once a week. It’s not normal,” Voisine said.

A closer look at a can of cigarette butts at the back of this home on Guy Street in Cornwall, Ont. on July 28, 2015. The fire chief believes, had it not been for the flower bed fire, it would have been only a matter of time before this was the cause of a fire. (Cornwall Newswatch/Bill Kingston)
A closer look at a can of cigarette butts at the back of this home on Guy Street in Cornwall, Ont. on July 28, 2015. The fire chief believes, had it not been for the flower bed fire, it would have been only a matter of time before this was the cause of a fire. (Cornwall Newswatch/Bill Kingston)

While suggesting it, the chief said he’s not at a point where they would start evaluating cigarette butts that start fires. Over-the-counter cigarettes have special fire safety standards nation-wide while contraband cigarettes are less likely to have those safeguards.

As for the hotline, the chief said the uptake has been slow with a half-dozen calls in the last month. He thinks there’s a level of complacency with the number of fires in the Seaway City. “I’m not buying it. This doesn’t have to happen.”

“We are tired of these things, we are tired of going to these fires.”

The hotline to report high-risk smokers is 613-930-7408.

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