VICTORIA – Despite years of public education, almost 70 per cent of the houses that caught fire in B.C. in recent years still did not have a working smoking alarm.
Many of those were low-income homes, rental units, many on aboriginal reserves and other rural locations, according to a study of residential fire reports done by the University of the Fraser Valley. Seniors, disabled people and young children were at greater risk of dying in a house fire.
Justice Minister Shirley Bond and Social Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux revealed new support Monday for the B.C. government’s campaign to get a working smoke alarm in every home in the province.
Smoke alarm maker Kidde Canada is donating 5,000 units with a retail value of $75,000 that will be distributed to B.C.’s most vulnerable populations this fall. And Black Press, whose publications reach 1.2 million B.C. homes, has pledged a public awareness advertising campaign worth $350,000 to remind people to install or upgrade their smoke alarms.
Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis, president of the Fire Chiefs Association of B.C., said the study used data from B.C.’s Office of the Fire Commissioner from 2006 to 2011. The study suggests that 69 lives could be saved each year if homes across Canada had working smoke detectors, he said.
“Smoke alarms give you time to escape from the fire – it seems pretty simple, doesn’t it?” Garis told a news conference at the B.C. legislature. “High-risk members of society are most likely to have a fire and least likely to have a working smoke alarm.”
Garis emphasized that all smoke alarms should be replaced after 10 years, and batteries changed annually.
Further details about the campaign will be publicized in Black Press publications during 2012. More information about the research and the program are available here.