No working smoke alarms at fatal Toronto house fire, investigators say

·2 min read

TORONTO — There were no working smoke alarms inside a Toronto house where a fire killed four people, investigators said Friday.

The Office of the Fire Marshal said an electrical failure in the ceiling of the dining room in the early morning hours of Jan. 29 caused the fire.

Arija Celeste survived the fire, but lost her six-year-old son, her mother and two friends.

"Everyone must take fire safety seriously," she said in a statement.

"Keep your family safe and make sure you have working smoke alarms and practise a home fire escape plan so everyone knows what to do when the alarm sounds."

Firefighters were called out around 4:30 a.m. that morning and arrived to a home that was engulfed in flames.

Another friend was able to escape the fire.

Neighbours said the flames spread quickly through the second floor and several nearby houses were damaged.

"When a fire occurs, you may only have seconds to get out safely," Fire Marshal Jon Pegg said in a statement.

"With the time change this weekend, I want to remind Ontarians to change the batteries in their smoke alarms and test them."

There are no working smoke alarms in more than one-third of fatal fires in the province, the Office of the Fire Marshal said.

"Installing working smoke alarms and testing them monthly is the most important action an individual homeowner can take to protect themselves and their loved ones from the hazards associated with fire," Pegg said.

Working smoke alarms must be installed on every storey and outside bedrooms, and need to be replaced every 10 years the office said.

Toronto Fire deputy chief Jim Jessop said everyone should know what to do in a fire and to practise an escape plan.

"We want to see you and your family standing outside your home if there is a fire," Jessop said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 12, 2021.

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version used an incorrect last name for Arija Celeste.