No smoke alarms found at deadly Oshawa house fire

CTV - An Oshawa home that caught fire on Monday, killing a mother, her two children and another man who tried to save them, had no smoke alarms.

Flames tore through the house on Centre Street North in Oshawa Monday, killing Lindsey Bonchek, her four-year-old son Jaxon, and her nine-year-old daughter Maddie.

Fifty-year-old Steven MacDonald was able to escape the flames, but went back in twice to rescue his pregnant daughter, ex-wife and his girlfriend who also lived inside the two-unit dwelling, a relative told CTV News Toronto on Tuesday.

When he went back a third time for Bonchek and her children on the upper floor of the house, he did not return and was later found dead.

Firefighters made several attempts to fight their way into the home but were unsuccessful. Another three occupants of the home were hospitalized.

Doing his best to hold back his frustration, Ontario Fire Marshal investigator Rick Derstroff said he and his colleagues found brackets, mounts and wires presumably meant to connect to smoke alarms, but no actual devices anywhere inside house.

“It shouldn’t happen in today’s day and age,” Derstroff said.

“Once a 911 call goes to a fire service, it doesn’t matter who they are — full-time or volunteer — they are already behind the clock. The fire alarm is what is going to save you.”

Derstroff said they have ruled out natural gas heating as a cause of the fire, and are now focused on a kitchen inside the home.

He said local firefighters are reviewing when they had last inspected the home, as it was subdivided into two rental units.

The Ontario Fire Code requires all homes to have a smoke detector on every floor.

Fire code charges are possible.

“It makes it even worse when you have small children involved, there’s going to be an empty desk at school,” Derstroff said.

He challenged teachers to instruct school children to check their homes for working smoke alarms.

“Maybe that will save a life.”

Standing outside the fire scene, city councillor Amy McQuaid-England said she has been working for years to create a licensing and inspection regime for rental housing in the part of town where the fire occurred, which would ensure units had functioning smoke alarms.

She said a motion to set up rental housing licensing city-wide was defeated at council several weeks ago.

“(Council) didn’t want to spend the $300,000,” regional councillor John Neil said.

“The Ontario Fire Marshal said it himself, this is preventable,” McQuaid-England said. “This loss of life is just . . . I have a daughter who is four years-old and I can’t even imagine.”