'There is clearly issues of life safety in there,' Peterborough deputy fire chief says about recently closed rooming house

'There is clearly issues of life safety in there,' Peterborough deputy fire chief says about recently closed rooming house

Peterborough Fire Services has shut down a problem rooming house.

“There is clearly issues of life safety in there,” Peterborough Deputy Fire Chief Chad Brown said on Wednesday, Oct. 11 as construction crews boarded up 494/496 Bolivar St.
Fire prevention inspectors identified numerous fire code violations within the combined property, which was operating as a rooming house. Inspectors noted issues with missing fire alarm and detection equipment, damaged or missing fire separations, and a lack of emergency planning. As a result of these significant fire and life safety concerns, the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management granted Peterborough Fire Services (PFS) authorization to close the property. This Week was able to access the property with fire officials.
“It is in very tough condition and unfortunately it is a whole series of events that have led us to where we are today,” adds Brown.
According to the deputy chief, the heat to the rooming house was recently shut off. This raised more concerns for officials because tenants would be forced to use alternate heating methods as temperatures start to drop heading into the winter months.
“If a fire were to occur especially with increased number of candle use and heating equipment it would be quite devastating on this property,” he explained.
The inside of the home is utter filth. Swarms of flies hover the kitchen. Bedrooms are filled with mounds of garbage and hypodermic needles. Walls are covered with blood stains and holes. Bedroom doors are bolted shut by nails. Knives are lodged in door frames for protection. Cigarettes butts litter the hallways. Bathtubs are filled with murky water. The smell of mould and rotting garbage is potent.
On Wednesday, PFS arrived with the assistance of Peterborough police and Peterborough Housing and Social Services to inform residents about the closure. Brown says there have been anywhere between eight and 24 people living there. Those with a permanent address of 494 or 496 Bolivar St. were supported in finding alternative accommodations.
“We have made arrangements for everyone for a place to stay so there’s no one displaced that we are aware of,” explains Brown.
“We just want to make sure everyone is safe, and we are at a point now, unfortunately, where time has run out because we’re not seeing the level of safety that is required in a building.”
Peterborough Fire says they have received several complaints about the property over the years. In 2016, the owner, Si-Hwa Liou, was convicted of fire code violations and was issued a $10,000 fine. According to court documents, Liou has also been convicted and fined $10,000 and $5,000 for fire code violations at his properties on Rubidge and George streets, respectively.
“Unfortunately in this case the owners have chosen not to do the corrections. As the process continues on, it seems to get worse and worse as things deteriorate,” Brown explains.
This Week was unable to contact Liou for comment.
Bolivar residents were happy to see the rooming house boarded up.
“It was a blessing when they showed up,” explains Doreen Payne.
She and her husband Bruce have lived on Bolivar Street for 43 years. Bruce says it has been a headache living there since the semi-detached home turned into a rooming house about 12 years ago.
“It has been a nightmare,” he explains.
“It was literally dangerous.”