Cause of Montreal Road apartment fire

The back porch of a six-plex on Montreal Road is charred after an early morning fire on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020. Two people were injured in the fire. Investigators have determined that it was stuff piled against an exhaust for a natural gas-fueled appliance that triggered the fire. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – We now know the cause of a fire at a six-plex on Montreal Road earlier this month that injured at least two people.

Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Weber told Cornwall Newswatch that the fire started outside the building due to “debris that was piled against a gas appliance exhaust.”

The deputy chief says the exhaust provided the ignition and there was enough junk around it to fuel the fire. The flames tore up the wood staircase and caught the back deck on fire while people were sleeping.

The building was fully involved by the time firefighters arrived around 4:25 a.m. on Feb. 4 at 802 Montreal Road (next to the car wash near the Guy Street intersection).

One of the occupants had to jump through the upper portion of a second-storey window to escape while others were woken up by neighbours banging on doors and windows – not from smoke alarms.

The investigation determined that some of the units may not have had working smoke detectors.

“The smoke alarms in the structure were difficult to determine. In the unit that had fire in it the smoke alarm was unidentifiable. In other units they ranged from missing to operable and fully functioning,” Weber said.

He hopes people learn a couple of valuable lessons from this fire.

“First, maintain appliance exhausts clear of snow and debris to not only ensure appliances run efficiently, but that they do not become a potential ignition source for fire,” he told Cornwall Newswatch.

“Secondly, working smoke alarms save lives. Landlords have the responsibility to ensure smoke alarms are functioning and are checked and maintained on an appropriate schedule. Tenants are not permitted to disable or remove smoke alarms that are placed by the owner for their, and other tenant’s protection. They are also responsible to notify the landlord when smoke alarms are not functioning,” Weber said.