Deadly Lachine fire: Most units in building didn't have working smoke detectors

The Lachine apartment where a fire claimed the lives of an eight-year-old girl and her mother on Friday night may not have had a functioning smoke detector according to firefighters.

The fatal fire in the Duff Court apartment building likely started with an improperly extinguished cigarette. Three siblings were also injured in the fire and a four-year-old child remains in critical condition.

According to a spokesperson for the Montreal Fire Department firefighters canvassed the other units in the building and hundreds of nearby apartments following the fire. They found many units didn’t have functioning smoke detectors and some had none at all.

Of 32 units in the building that firefighters could access, 24 of them were without a working detector and 100 of the roughly 350 nearby apartments were also without a functioning alarm.

In June Montreal adopted a bylaw requiring all homes on the island built before 1985 be outfitted with lithium battery-powered devices that last 10 years. Newer dwellings are required to have electronic smoke detectors built in during constructions.

Fire department spokesperson Matthew Griffith said thousands of homes still aren’t up to code.

“Island-wide, on average, it varies,” he said. “About 25 per cent of smoke alarms are absent or not functioning.”

The Lachine fire is still being investigated by the SPVM’s arson department but Griffith said the fire is a tragic reminder of the importance of fire safety.

“Smoke alarms save lives,” he said. “In 90 per cent of fires where there’s a death we see the smoke alarm is not functioning or absent completely.”

Griffith advised tenants in buildings without functioning alarms to call their local fire station so they can send an inspector.

Friends of the mother who perished in the fire have started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for her surviving children.