Cornwall Care Centre feeling heat from fire department; ‘It’s a bit much’ says owner

A Cornwall Fire Department pickup truck sits outside The Care Centre on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018. Firefighters have been touring the building around the clock as part of a provincially mandated Fire Watch. The owners say they were hit with a surprise inspection even though the fire department knew they were trying to repair problems in the building. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

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CORNWALL – The owners of The Care Centre on Second Street East say they are doing their “upmost” to comply with a number of “tasks” after a surprise inspection by the Cornwall Fire Department.

In a sit-down interview Thursday with Cornwall Newswatch, part-owner and developer Dan Orr said they have been dealing with some issues with leaky pipes in the 120 year old building, which have set off trouble alarms on the fire panel.

Orr and Matt Cinnamon are the developers and managers of the residential section of The Care Centre while Derek Karam is part-owner and manager of the commercial side.

Orr claims they filed a Fire Watch with the fire department before working on the building’s plumbing and they were keeping Fire Watch records. Under the Ontario Fire Code, buildings with fire alarm systems and sprinklers must have a “responsible occupant, employee or contracted security guard” do active rounds on a regular basis to check for smoke or fire.

But, while they were in the middle of testing the system for leaks on Tuesday, Orr said 13 firefighters showed up at their door around 8 p.m. “I don’t blame the fire system,” he said. “We are trying to work together.”

The fire department has taken up the Fire Watch duties since then and 2-3 firefighters are on site at any given time, through Orr said there has been a breakdown in communication and the fire department has inexplicably left without handing off Fire Watch duties to them. Firefighters were touring the building late Thursday night.

“Somebody made a call…somebody made pressure,” Derek Karam said, noting that there hasn’t been an active fire in the building. “There’s no reason for any concern.” Karam also questioned whether having 13 firefighters show up to their building was the best use of taxpayer resources on a night the region was being pelted with a freezing rain storm.

As for the safety of the residents, “they’re like family to us,” Orr added, noting his own mother is a full-time resident. “Our (fire) alarms work.”

The Care Centre was launched in the summer of 2015 as a one-stop shop for health services that would fill in the health care gaps as well as provide affordable lodging for seniors. Right now, it has roughly 36 residents and a number of other services on its commercial side: occupational therapy, acupuncture, pediatric care, pain therapy, registered massage therapy, a French cultural center, a hair salon, and a number of community groups.

All of the owners were visibly tired – some emotional about the experience – saying they have been putting in 18-20 hour days to comply with the fire department. In fact, during their interview with CNW, Orr was sending an email to Fire Chief Pierre Voisine with an update on what tasks were being worked on, such as purchasing and installing emergency hallway lighting and upgrading their fire extinguishers. A large stack of lighting in boxes was sitting in the corner of Orr’s office.

A truck from electrical contractor, Latreille Electric, was also on site Thursday night.

“We are doing our upmost best to follow the instructions as quickly and timely as possible,” Orr said.

But Orr said they are somewhat frustrated with the “undue pressure” but understand there’s a job to be done. “But we do understand that these people (the firefighters) are in a position. We’re not faulting anybody…but it seems a bit much.”

The owner concedes there has been a delay in getting their annual inspection completed, which was to be done in November 2017. He did note the building passed its last inspection in the spring of 2017.

Since Tuesday, the owners said there have been roughly 50 firefighters touring through their building.

When approached by CNW for this story, Fire Chief Pierre Voisine declined to comment, saying a news release would be coming Friday or Monday.

As for the future, the owners are adamant they will forge ahead with their vision to create the best health care center in the region – second to the Cornwall Community Hospital.

Citing a 90 second YouTube video with Dr. Abraham Twerski entitled “How do Lobsters grow?”, Orr said they are going to grow through adversity.