UPDATED: Triple-fatal fire started in basement of east Mountain home: fire marshal
UPDATED: Triple-fatal fire started in basement of east Mountain home: fire marshal
June 15, 2017
Hamilton Spectator
Article by: Nicole O'Reilly
Smoke detectors in an east Mountain home where three members of a family died in a fire overnight were inspected two weeks ago and were working at that time.
Records show the subsidized single-family home at 36 Laird Dr. had been inspected June 1 as part of routine annual work and were operational, said CityHousing Hamilton CEO Tom Hunter.
A neighbour called 911 around 12:22 a.m. Thursday after seeing smoke coming from the bungalow near Upper Ottawa Street. Several neighbours said they did not hear smoke detectors sounding as firefighters arrived.
Richard Derstroff, investigator with the Ontario Fire Marshal's office, said smoke inhalation was the cause of death for all three victims based on a preliminary investigation.
The identity of the three victims is not being released at this point, he said.
Derstroff said they've been able to determine the fire started in the basement. He said he can't yet say where the victims were found.
So far, one smoke detector has been located on the main level of the home, where the bedrooms were. It's not yet known if there were any smoke detectors in the basement, which was unfinished.
"With smoke alarms, they're very sensitive ... you should have a lot of early detection or early warning that there's something wrong," Derstroff said.
Forensic fire prevention engineers from the OFM will be on scene to examine the smoke detector Friday, Derstroff said.
Derstroff said Hamilton police's arson and criminal investigations units are assisting the coroner's investigation.
"There's no indication to make this a crime scene at this point," he added.
Firefighters were met with thick smoke and found three people — a mother and her two older children — inside the smoke-filled bungalow. Firefighters and paramedics attempted CPR on the front lawn, however, one person was pronounced dead at the scene and two others in hospital.
"It's a tragic day in Hamilton," said Hamilton Fire Department spokesperson Claudio Mostacci at the scene.
Statement from @HamiltonFireDep on #HamOnt house fire that claimed 3 lives overnight pic.twitter.com/DbYwlXsHD7
Neighbours say the family was new to the neighborhood, having moved here about eight months ago. A mom and her teenaged and young adult children live in the home, they said.
Fred Deys said he came out of his home early Thursday morning to emergency vehicles all over the road and paramedics performing CPR on three people lying on the front lawn.
Many shocked neighbours gathered on the street overnight.
Deys said the family was quiet and kept to themselves.
Next-door neighbour Iris Gillis said the woman, her teenaged daughter and young adult son moved there in September. She had another son who lived out of town for school.
The house had been vacant for years and required quite a bit of work before the family moved in, Gillis said. Hunter confirmed CityHousing Hamilton spent $15,000 in repairs on the home in 2015.
Hunter said he can't talk about the victims or any circumstances surrounding the blaze, directing questions to fire officials.
"We are all very sad that this tragedy has happened to this family," he said in a brief statement. "We want to extend our condolences to all of their family members and friends."
The chairperson of the Sudanese League of Hamilton said the community is hoping to help the family any way they can.
"We're trying to see what we can do," said Bashir Ismail.
Ismail said there are relatives, including a mother and a brother, in St. Catharines.
He said the family wasn't heavily involved in the Sudanese community in Hamilton, but that doesn't mean they won't do what they can to support them.
"We have a responsibility to deal with anything that happens to any Sudanese person," he said.
He said the family, including a single mother, a daughter and a son, had been in the Hamilton area a "long time." Before moving to their Mountain home, they lived in Dundas, he said.
Gillis said the woman was taking good care of the property and she was happy to have a new good neighbour. She said the daughter had medical issues and the older son seemed to often help out around the house, including mowing the lawn.
"She was a very nice, friendly lady," Gillis said, adding they'd bonded over talking about the deaths of their husbands.
Gillis had just spoken to her the night before about fence work she was having done and was shocked when she was woken by emergency service vehicles early Thursday.
Gillis, like other neighbours, said she did not hear smoke alarms going off.
This is the second fatal fire in Hamilton in just over a month. On May 1, three-year-old Cayden Decker-Landry was pulled from the basement at 240 Golden Orchard Dr. on the west Mountain. He was rushed to hospital by ambulance but was later pronounced dead.
Last October, a fire at 191 Grenfell St. killed three people in a one-and-a-half storey house.
Mostacci said some of the same firefighters have responded to these fatal fires and it is difficult for them.
"We have assistance in place," he said.
Since the start of 2016, 12 deaths across the city have been linked to fires.