CORNWALL – Both the city’s fire chief and fire prevention officer are crediting working smoke alarms for saving the life of a tenant and allowing firefighters to quickly contain a raging kitchen fire on Carleton Street Thursday night.
Emergency responders were called around 6:30 p.m. to the building at 216 Carleton, between Easton Avenue and Walton Street.
There were 13 firefighters on scene within three minutes, according to the fire department.
With the landlord’s cooperation, the fire department gave reporters a tour of the damage Friday morning in order to drive home the point that smoke alarms can give people the precious seconds they need to save their lives.
Fire Prevention Officer Terry Lauzon says the tenant – a man in his 70s – had put a couple of TV dinners in the oven and had also inadvertently turned on a stove top burner which had a plastic serving tray sitting on top.
“He went back to the living room to have a nap while his food was cooking or relax, fell asleep , and then the smoke alarms (two of them) alerted him,” Lauzon said.
The man had tried to put the fire out but then left and 911 was called. In the meantime, the stove-top fire turned into a raging inferno – possibly with temperatures as high as 800 degrees Fahrenheit – blistering the paint on the kitchen cabinets within six inches from the floor and charring the living room.
“We’re talking under five minutes, got to where he could actually see flames, to this,” Lauzon said, pointing to the charred mess. “That’s why smoke alarms are so important. You go from that…in four minutes…he stands up and the temperature at head level could 800-900 degrees. He’s going to go down,” Lauzon said.
“He would not have survived.”
The damage to the upstairs unit is said to be extensive – estimated to be around $75,000. There is also water damage in the unit below. With no natural gas or electricity to the building, a total of nine tenants and their pets have been displaced.
Fire Chief Pierre Voisine says there are three messages to take away from this tragedy.
“The owner took care of the building. That’s huge and that actually saved the life of the occupant. Our crews did an excellent job of containing the fire to the fire apartment. And third thing is, in light of the Smart Cities Challenge application, I can only imagine if, at the time the occupant was awoken by the smoke alarms, if we were notified immediately, what kind of impact we could have had then,” Voisine said.
The Smart Cities Challenge is an application to receive a $250,000 grant from the federal government to have wireless home monitoring city-wide for emergencies.
The fire chief says, in almost every fatal house fire, there’s an issue with either smoke alarms that are missing or are not working.
Landlord diligent on smoke and carbon monoxide alarms
The owner of the Carleton building is Yvon Glaude. The 34-year-old has owned the building for four years and also has several income properties in the city.
He joined firefighters Friday morning to speak with reporters about the upkeep on his buildings.
Glaude takes his responsibility serious as a landlord. “Yeah, I’m serious about it. I actually learned from somebody who has experienced it in a negative way. I take it seriously, it’s not a joke,” he said.
Glaude says he keeps his buildings up to code with smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in every unit on every floor and checks them yearly.
“I get them to sign a report…that I came in, complied, changed batteries, tested them,” Glaude said.
Glaude was asked if he’s seen or heard about cases where tenants are tampering with smoke alarms that have been properly installed by landlords.
“Very often I will go into a place because they are near a kitchen and the tenant tends to remove them. I have installed the new smoke alarms where the battery comes out of the front so that it’s easy to just press the button and press it back in instead of dismantling it, putting it somewhere where they’re never going to put it up again,” Glaude said.
Fire Chief Pierre Voisine also praised Glaude.
“We often celebrate the firefighter who pulls a body out a window as a hero and that’s appropriate. But, here’s the thing, we have an owner here who actually took on his responsibilities and made sure that the apartment was protected and up to code,” Voisine said of Glaude.
“That’s as heroic as anything. That occupant today is alive because the work he did.”
Click on a thumbnail below to see more pictures of the damage.