A fire marshal is reminding people about the importance of having a fire safety plan after a condo building in Saskatoon's Sutherland neighbourhood was destroyed after a plastic container was used as an ashtray, sparking a massive fire.
"It's really important. It just saves lives," Saskatoon Fire Department fire marshal Brian Conway said in an interview.
"Making sure that you know your two ways out, what the procedures are, and if you are ever in a fire event that you do not hear a fire alarm going, pull the alarm … and then never assume 911 has been called, always make that call."
Saskatoon fire Chief Morgan Hackl said no one pulled the fire alarm during Saturday's incident, even though it was working.
Investigators found the fire broke out on the ground floor exterior of the building's northwest corner because of improper disposal of smoking material close to the building, according to Hackl. The container didn't have sand or water at the bottom to snuff out the materials.
Hackl speculated that the fire could have been less severe had it not been for the modern building materials used in its construction.
"A structure which has vinyl siding, lots of different glulam [a structural material manufactured through the union of individual wood segments] and oriented strand board material that has glue content in it: When fire catches onto that product it moves very quickly; it burns very hot," Hackl told reporters on Sunday.
The fire climbed the vinyl siding and "quickly moved into the open truss space in the roof," he said.
Vinyl siding not inherently a fire risk
Conway says vinyl siding is not inherently a fire risk.
It's a common product that's used where permitted within the National Building Code of Canada, and is often used in one and two unit dwellings and smaller apartment buildings, according to Kara Fagnou, director of building standards for the City of Saskatoon.
Conway says it ultimately goes back to safety around a building.
"In this case, that was smoking material. But there's other things that can affect, too. And it could be wood siding, it could be a barbecue, it could be a cooking smoker or anything like that, even a candle," he said.
He says people must dispose of smoking material in an object that has water or sand in it. He said if you put a cigarette in a potted plant, it's important to remember that most organic matter in potted plants has peat moss which can sustain combustion and could incubate the end of a cigarette if it's not fully extinguished.
"And it can actually come to the point that it starts the peat moss on fire. And then again, we still have the same fire, though the person was trying to do the right thing by putting it in the pot," Conway said.
"So it just comes back to safety."