After tragic North Vancouver fire, officials offer safety advice

After tragic North Vancouver fire, officials offer safety advice

The tragic death of a mother and her young son in a fire at a North Vancouver housing complex Monday has led some to ask questions about fire preparedness.

A District of North Vancouver spokesperson has said there have been calls from concerned residents seeking more information about how best to prepare themselves and their families in the event of a fire.

The district's fire department announced on Twitter they will be on hand with information on fire preparation at the Lynn Valley Days festival, June 16-17 at Lynn Valley Park,  including how to plan escape routes in the event of a fire.

Investigators are still trying to determine what caused the blaze.

Key precautions

Mountain Village Garden Apartments, where Monday's fire occurred, is a multi-unit building constructed in the '60s, North Vancouver Assistant Fire Chief Haida Siegmann said.

Across Metro Vancouver, buildings of this type are not uncommon but she explained the key fire safety lessons remain largely the same no matter what type of home is involved.

"The number one thing that gives us the edge is having a working smoke alarm in our home," Siegmann said. "Early warning gives us the opportunity to get out. Fires move fast."

Another key precaution she offered was to have an escape route from the building planned out with two possible exits and to practise those routes — especially with children.

"We teach the kids when we go into to schools that practising your fire escape plan is just like practising a sport: the more you do it, the better you get," Siegmann said.

Low-rise buildings not a great concern

Vancouver Fire Rescue Service spokesperson Jonathan Gormick said wood-frame, low-rise  buildings constructed in the '60s are common in many Vancouver neighbourhoods, but they don't account for a disproportionate number of fire calls.

"Obviously, they don't have the same passive and active fire protection devices as a modern, compartmentalized highrise  but they still have a number of fire protection features," he explained.

"As long as those are maintained, they meet modern fire code and they do create a safe environment."

Gormick said in addition to keeping working smoke alarms and creating and practising an escape plan, apartment residents can take a few extra precautions.

Make sure escape routes are clear of obstructions, he suggested. Look for propped-open fire doors. Check exit signs to make sure they are illuminated.

If there are repeated problems in common, he said, you can raise them with a building manager or, depending on the city, you can call the fire department's non-emergency line to ask for an inspector.

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