Enforcement top fire services priority

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

A recent fine laid against a London landlord signals a new age of enforcement for London’s Fire Services (LFS).

The $4,000 fine was levied after it found garbage had been piled repeatedly in front of a fire exit of a downtown apartment building.

Although the charge is currently under appeal, Dan Oldridge, LFS deputy fire chief, promised the outcome of the case will not affect the LFS’s current operations.

“[The charge] sends a strong message that we’re going to continue enforcement,” Oldridge said. “We’ve already charged more landlords for not abiding with bylaws.”

The current enforcement standards came as a result of a Fire Marshal’s report released in 2004 suggesting the LFS take a more proactive legal stance when dealing with noncompliant landlords.

“Three years ago we weren’t taking anyone to court,” Oldridge explained. “We would keep working with [landlords] and it wasn’t uncommon for us to be recalled to the property.”

Only a small portion of landlords are uncooperative with the new policy.

According to Oldridge, the number is about one in several hundred, and most of the hesitant change their minds once they hear of the possibility of financial penalties or jail time.

Though there were no students renting from the fined building, other buildings occupied by students may fall under the LFS’ scrutiny in the near future, as the department’s goal is to get through every building in the city.

At Varsity Commons, where a large number of off-campus Western students reside, building manager Chris Costello is happy about the state of fire safety.

“Our fire system is audited every year,” Costello explained. “We have a full central building system " very similar to the one used by Western residences.”

At least one resident of Varsity Commons finds it hard to take fire alarms seriously at the building.

“Just the other week someone lit something on fire and threw it down the garbage chute,” Louis St. Pierre, a fourth-year commercial aviation management student said.

“Maybe it’s because it’s a party residence and people do stupid things, but I know the smoke detectors are very sensitive and people take them down.”

According to Costello, apathy about fire safety is a common concern among any building manager.

“We try to educate our tenants with our procedures and put up information in our lobby so residents know why the alarm was caused.”

Deputy Fire Chief Oldridge stressed if any student has concerns about the state of their fire safety they can call the LFS and launch a complaint.

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