by Viet-Lien (Alice) Hoang
Two stove fires in the same afternoon in the same Toronto hi-rise sent residents fleeing from their apartments Wednesday.
Thick smoke originating on the ninth and seventh floors spread through the high-rise residential building at 1021 Birchmount Rd. Four fire trucks responded to a 911 call, arriving at 1:21 p.m.. Later that day, a second 911 call was made, and firefighters arrived to another stove fire at 4:02 p.m.
Both fires yielded the same results – minimal damages and no injuries, said Adrian Ratushniak, captain of the Toronto Fire Services. Ratushniak said that the goal of the fire department is to protect lives, property, and the environment.
“We want to clear the smoke from the building and ensure that the fire is out, as we try to minimize property damage and anything that could harm the environment,” Ratushniak said.
Although there were no big fires, people needed to evacuate the building, as smoke inhalation is the main cause of deaths in fire incidents, said fire Captain Dan Kendrick, who was at the scene of the incidents. “It’s the smoke that gets you first,” he said.
Katie Koruntoff said that she has been living in the building for a long time and knows what to do in the event of a fire, but many people don’t, and they panic.
“We seem to have increased in numbers of potential hazards from carelessness,” she said. “I smelled smoke from the elevator so I got out right away and took the stairs, but some people still used the elevators, even when they were told not to.”
Everyone should have their own fire extinguisher in addition to smoke alarms, since the hose lines and extinguishers in the fire cabinets in the hallways are only to be used by superintendents, she said.
Positive pressure ventilation was used on the ninth floor, where a big fan pressurized the stairwell to push out the smoke, Kendrick said. There are also fire doors that serve as “fire breaks” to prevent the spread of smoke and fire, he added.
He said that there was minimal damage in the kitchen of the apartment on the ninth floor and no ventilation was required.
“We arrived to smoke in the hallway, while the fire was still burning, but it was put out easily, as it was just a matter of moving the pot from the stove,” Kendrick said.
The fire on the seventh floor was out when the fire department arrived because it was well-contained on the stove area, Kendrick said. The kitchen had smoke damage due to a grease fire, although the damage was also minimal – the cupboards, ceiling, and wall area around the stove would just need to be washed and re-painted, Kendrick said.
He said that some attempted to put out the fire on the seventh floor with a water-based extinguisher, which was not a good idea, as you wouldn’t want to mix oil and water.
“The lady of the apartment did everything right – she put a lid on [the pan] to smother the flames, but then [someone else] used a water-based extinguisher, which caused the oil and fire to spread across the stove top and create more damage than if the lid had just been left on the pan,” Kendrick said.
Another option to put out a grease fire would be to use a dry chemical-based extinguisher, Kendrick said.
As a safety measure, he said that it’s important to have exit plans, as they’d help people know what to do in a fire situation.
“I don’t know if it’s a standard right across to have exit plans at all doors, but there should be exit signs to indicate exit doors and exit plans in elevators,” Kendrick said.