Unlicensed Toronto group home ordered shut after fire

Unlicensed Toronto group home ordered shut after fire
By Betsy Powell
Toronto Star
Link to article: Unlicensed Toronto group home ordered shut after fire

The province has approved a Toronto Fire request to shut down an unlicensed group home at 108 Fawcett Trail in Scarborough after a fire broke out there on Monday.

The province has approved a Toronto Fire Service request to order the closure of an unlicensed group home in the city’s east end after firefighters raced to the two-storey residence Monday.

Previous inspection orders requiring the owner and operator of the group home to upgrade the fire safety measures had not occurred, and additional charges will now be laid, Deputy Fire Chief Jim Jessop said Tuesday.

“There’s been no attempt, candidly, I would use the word willful neglect, to comply with the fire code,” Jessop said.

Firefighters responding to the call at 108 Fawcett Trail on Monday morning ripped up drywall to douse flames and cleared smoke from the building. Six people living at the home, either elderly or suffering from mental health issues, fled uninjured.

Last year, the Ontario Provincial Police conducted an investigation into unlicensed group homes in Toronto, including the home at 108 Fawcett — part of a chain operated by Winston Manning and Phyllis Jackson.

The seven-month probe concluded the homes were overcrowded, unsanitary and in “deplorable” condition, but provincial health officials determined closing them would displace vulnerable people with nowhere else to go.

The health and safety issues continue and have fallen to the city.

Fire officials have tried various enforcement measures and are now taking the next step to close the entire building “until we get some reassurance that they’ll convert it back to a single family house or they’re going to comply with the requirements of the (Ontario) fire code,” Jessop said.

Convictions under the code can result in fines of up to $100,000 or up to a year in prison.

Officials are monitoring Manning’s other properties, Jessop added.

Manning told the Star on Tuesday he moved the Fawcett Trail tenants to his other buildings scattered around Scarborough. He rents the homes and collects disability, pension and other income sources, but says he often doesn’t get paid and is doing the work as a calling.

Monday’s fire “had nothing to do with the fire code violations,” he added, but was caused by one of the residents stuffing newspapers into a heating vent.

“I’ve been calling police constantly to have him removed or take him to the hospital and have him reassessed, get his medication adjusted.”

Manning insisted the building had been brought up to meet the Ontario Fire Code standards and all that remained was to install “fire-rated doors on the bedroom.”

But he admitted the work managing several homes can be overwhelming and “all I can do so much at once. I’m working hard.”

A man who identified himself as the husband of property owner Dhanna Kanhai said Tuesday he did “not want to discuss this with a newspaper.”

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