Time for smoke-free condos

West end condo blaze causes $10M in damages
Global News
By Patricia Kozicka
23 July 2014

Hundreds of residents displaced by a $10 million condo fire packed a west Edmonton church Tuesday evening, hopeful for answers. What some learned is that it may be up to a year-and-a-half before they can move back into their homes.

The fire at the four-storey Park Place South Hamptons condo complex on Monday was traced back to a cigarette in a planter pot. Planting soil is often mixed with combustible materials like Styrofoam, so when a cigarette is stubbed out in one it causes the materials to smoulder and eventually break out in flames, said fire marshal Tom Karpa.

700 fires and seven deaths

In the last 10 years, there have been more than 700 fires and seven deaths in Edmonton caused by smokers’ material, amounting to more than $50 million in damages.

“I don’t know why there’s such a lack of awareness,” Block said.

“Is it going to take a funeral? A multiple fatality at one of these events? It’s only a matter of time until that happens.”

Fire investigators have since determined that the fire was caused by a cigarette extinguished in a flower pot.

“They’re extinguishing in a planter pot that they expect is dirt. It’s an organic compound and it’s got peat moss in it and various other things. Sometimes those compounds have other combustible materials within the planting soil,” explained Daryl Brennan, the city’s chief of fire investigations.

“It’s just stupidity,” said Adam Bennett. “I have friends who lost everything.”
Bennett and his wife had been living in one of the fourth floor suites until they bought a house recently and rented out their suite this month.

It’s still unclear what, if anything, will be salvageable from suites that bore the brunt of the damage.

“It’s a shame that that many people have to pay the consequences of one [person's] cigarette,” said David Morin, who’s been living in the building since April.

Even though he’s a smoker, Morin would support banning smoking in condo buildings to prevent future fires.

That may be easier said than done, though.

“Any condo corporation could pass a set of bylaws that would prevent smoking on condominium property or individual units,” said lawyer Robert Noce. “The problem, of course, is getting 75 per cent of owners…to support a change in the bylaws. And the other part, of course, is the enforcement provisions.” (In Ontario you need 50% plus one.—editor)

Residents have been told that, starting Thursday, they’ll be scheduled in 20-minute increments to take what they need from their suites.

According to the condo board, “longer blocks of time to allow residents to recover larger items will be scheduled over the next several weeks. Over the next few days…access will be granted to retrieve vehicles.”

“The north side of the building, I think they said everyone has to find a different place to live,” Morin said.

The blaze that displaced roughly 400 people broke out early Monday morning at the SouthHamptons condo complex, a four-storey building located just off 199 Street and Lessard Road.

Fires caused by smokers’ material in Edmonton
Edmonton Journal
2014 52 fires, $11.5 million in damages, two injuries
79 fires, $4.2 million in damages, six injuries
72 fires, $8 million in damages, two injuries
88 fires, $7.5 million in damages, three injuries
54 fires, $5.1 million in damages, three injuries, one death
65 fires, $2.3 million in damages, five injuries, four deaths

Time to ban smoking in condos?
Condo lawyer Robert Noce spoke on radio station 630 CHED on why smoking bans in condo corporations are a good idea.

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