No working alarms in Vancouver blaze that killed 1

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No working alarms in Vancouver blaze that killed 1

Fire officials are pleading with Vancouverites to test their smoke alarms and electrical equipment after a blaze Sunday morning left one dead.

It was Vancouver's second fatal fire of 2018.

Rescuers called to the early-morning blaze found heavy smoke and flames pouring out of the residence.

Three people had managed to escape the upper floor, but one resident remained trapped inside, Jonathan Gormick, spokesperson for Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services, told reporters Wednesday.

Fire personnel managed to knock back the flames and pull the resident from the building, but resuscitation attempts failed.

The victim, a man in his 70s, died in "what appears to be an illegal suite," Gormick said.

Officials determined the fire began in the lower part of the residence, "possibly because of faulty electrical equipment."

Power bar could be cause

Investigators found a high-current space heater plugged into a power bar in the suite but aren't sure if the fire was due to overloading of the power bar or a manufacturing defect. 

"It is possible that the draw of the space heater exceeded the capacity" of the power cord or the bar, Gormick said.

An official added that heaters are a major concern in the winter.

"You take a 1,500-watt heater, turn it on full, it's going to draw full capacity on that one circuit. You start adding a computer to it, maybe a TV, you're going to be over in no time."

He also warned against the use of electrical devices in poor condition or lacking proper safety ratings and stressed the importance of keeping fire alarms up-to-date.

"We cannot overstate the importance of working smoke alarms," Gormick said, pointing out that the lower portion of the house, where the deceased was found, did not have an alarm.

Investigators did find a smoke alarm in the upper part of the residence, he added, but it wasn't operating.

City can supply alarm

Gormick indicated that alarms need to be tested monthly and have their batteries changed twice a year.

He urged the placement of multiple alarms throughout a residence, "ideally located on every floor, if not outside every bedroom of a house."

He reminded Vancouver residents to call 311 with questions about fire safety. The city will install a free smoke alarm in homes where needed, he said.

The three residents who noticed the fire despite the lack of an alarm were "very, very lucky to have escaped alive," Gormick added.

"There's a broad misconception that people will be woken up in case of a fire. They'll smell the smoke. They'll hear the fire. And that's been proven time and time again not to be the case."