Chimney fire forces residents to flee London home
By Jennifer O’Brien, The London Free Press
A downtown landlord is facing several fire-code violation charges after a blaze that left at least four tenants homeless over the weekend.
The home at 474 Queens Ave. had no working smoke alarms, no proper fire separations between units and not enough exits when a blaze raged through its walls and attic Saturday night, said Deputy Chief Jim Jessop.
Convictions for those fire-code violations come with hefty fines of up to $50,000 or possible jail time for each one, he said.
Damages were estimated at about $100,000. No one was injured.
“We were very fortunate. It’s these types of apartment building and rooming houses, where Ontario has seen multiple fatal fires,” said Jessop.
The blaze likely started in the fireplace, where the landlord was burning wood.
Flames quickly leaped to the walls of the home.
Someone alerted the landlord and someone called 911, but at least two tenants were unaware of the commotion.
Karen Beaucage and Jeff McCracken were watching television when Beaucage noticed fire trucks gathering outside.
“I said to my husband, ‘Get dressed and let’s get out of here now. Our house is on fire,’” Beaucage said, standing outside moments later. “Nobody told us. That place has no fire alarms.”
By then, neighbours were already standing outside, as was the building’s landlord.
“I’m upset,” he said as firefighters doused the blaze. “It’s crazy.”
Jessop said the Red Cross provided temporary shelter for four tenants.
The landlord has been ordered to close all the units until the building is brought up to code.
Before taking the position of deputy chief in London this year, Jessop vowed to use the law to enforce the fire code — specifically those sections concerning smoke detectors — as he had done while deputy chief in Niagara Falls.
Peter Rudzic faces five charges in relation to fire-code violations.