Fire at city-run seniors' home without sprinklers renews calls for their addition province-wide

A deadly fire at a city-run seniors' home in Villeray has prompted renewed calls for them to be mandatory in all such residences in Quebec.

The blaze at Residence Boyer left an 81-year-old woman dead, discovered by firefighters in her apartment, while four others had to be treated for smoke inhalation.

"I think we need sprinklers everywhere, this is a security measure that should be everywhere—especially if it is municipal," said Pierre Blain, a member of the Health and Social Services Users Committee for the region's CIUSSS.

The concrete building was not required to include a sprinkler system, as it was built before they were required in building plans by law, according to Villeray borough mayor Anie Samson, who is also the city executive committee member in charge of public safety.

"The structure was all [concrete], they don't need that because it is very safe," she told reporters from the scene of the blaze, adding the concrete limited the damage to the building.

Following the fatal fire at a seniors' home in L'Isle-Vert on Jan. 23, 2014, the province mandated all private seniors' residences must have a sprinkler system installed by 2020, but publicly-run residences were not included.

The residence at Villeray St. near Christophe-Colomb Ave. was for autonomous seniors, not a CHLSD or an assisted-living centre.

Yet many of the elderly residence had trouble evacuating the building on their own, and many had to be rescued from their balconies by firefighters—two even had to be rescued from the roof.

Despite that, many people had difficulty getting out of the building on their own. Firefighters rescued many people from their balconies, and two residents had to be saved from the roof.

"We should review [residents'] health situation every year and perhaps people needing help should be on the first floor and not the fourth floor," suggested Blain.

The fire is believed to have been caused by a lit cigarette in an apartment on the third floor.

—with files from Cindy Sherwin of CTV Montreal