The Calgary Fire Department battled an early morning multi-suite residential fire in Bowness on Oct. 20, and a man in his 70s was found dead at the scene.
The fire at 4304 – 73 Street NW consumed a number of apartments located next to an alleyway. An additional five occupants were evacuated from the building unharmed.
“It was just a couple blocks down from the fire station, so a very quick response,” said Carol Henke, Public Information Officer for the Calgary Fire Department.
“When fire crews arrived, they did see a lot of fire and smoke coming from the front door of one of the residences… they quickly entered, and brought the fire under control enough so that they could do a search and tragically did find a deceased male in inside the suite.”
Henke said that Arson Investigators from CFD and the Calgary Police Service would be on scene throughout the day investigating the fire.
Although, she said, the fire is not believed to be suspicious.
“When there is significant dollar loss, serious injury, or fatality, we work together with our CPS colleagues to determine the origin and cause of this fire,” Henke said.
No cause for the fire has yet been determined by investigators. The fire department also did not have a timeline for when evacuated residents would be able to return to their homes.
A second fire in Discovery ridge overnight sent a person to hospital with burns.
That fire was believed to have been started outside of the home. Fire investigators are examining the cause of that fire, including a report of a propane tank that exploded.
“Typically the most common causes for outdoor fire starts that are accidental are the improper disposal of smoking materials, it could be a barbecue that was left on but again, the fire is under investigation so we don’t want to make any assumptions at this point,” said Henke.
Fires highlight need for working, tested smoke alarms in homes
Neighbours of the man who was found dead at the Bowness fire told LWC that they didn’t hear fire alarms going off.
Henke said that the fire department didn’t as of yet know whether there were working fire alarms in the suite, but confirmed that no fire alarms were heard outside of the suite.
“I did speak with the battalion chief and the fire investigator who has started the investigation, and no smoke alarms were heard when fire crews arrived on scene,” she said.
Deputy Fire Chief Pete Steenaerts said that the fatality was the sixth for 2022.
The fatal fire provided a grim backdrop for a planned donation event at the Seton Station 41 Fire Hall on Thursday. The choice of fire hall was in recognition of the Wock family, who survived their fast-burning 2016 house fire because of a working smoke alarm.
Kidde Fire Safety Products made a donation of 1,000 smoke alarms to CFD to be distributed to homes throughout Calgary as part of the city’s Home Safety Program.
“I just want to take a moment to extend our heartfelt sympathies to those impacted by this morning’s fires. We’re truly saddened to hear about the loss of life, and our thoughts are with you,” said Stephanie Berzinski, fire safety educator with Kidde.
The approximately $30,000 donation was made to the CFD as part of the company’s Operation Save-a-Life program.
“Fire safety is our mission, protecting and saving lives is why we’re here, and that’s why we are so proud to be able to donate these 1,000 smoke alarms—especially for people in communities who need the most,” Berzinski said.
Having a working smoke alarm decreases the chance of a fatality in a fire by more than 50 per cent.
Chief Steenaerts said that the donated alarms would be going to all 42 stations across the city, to homes that need them most.
“We do try to target areas where we know just based on the age of the homes, when they were built and so on that there’s a higher likelihood that smoke alarms will be needing to be replaced,” he said.
“We do visit nonetheless, all homes across the City of Calgary and all districts to inspect smoke alarms offer replacements if necessary, and as well just to spread a general message and awareness of fire safety in the home.”
Out of sight out of mind for many Calgarians
He said that for many Calgarians, smoke alarms are out of sight out of mind.
“People don’t necessarily think about fires and emergencies in the home, it’s not something that they’ve experienced before, so it’s just something that’s not at the front of mind,” Steenaerts said.
“That’s a big part of the reason why we are endeavouring to visit as many homes as we do, to help provide that message, and to help make that at the front of people’s minds. And then of course, if and when we recognize that they need a new detector, we’re able to assist them with replacing it.”
Chief Steenaerts said that the impact from fires are universal in the city, although the donation from Kidde helps the CFD to address the needs of low income and vulnerable populations that might not have access to smoke alarms.
“Today in the City of Calgary we’ve seen a couple of fire events and they’ve happened in completely different ends of the city in completely different communities so it can truly have an impact anywhere at any time,” he said.
He said that working fire alarms also help to get crews faster to fires, and save lives.
“The earlier that a fire is detected and the quicker that we can get on scene from a call from 911 or from an alarm company, the better outcome that we can have,” the deputy chief said.
“Working smoke alarms save lives. Early detection saves lives. That’s what smoke alarms help to do, and that’s why it’s so important to get this message out.”