The Ontario Fire Marshal’s office has concluded its investigation into a fatal fire that claimed the life of an elderly woman and two of her dogs on Sunday afternoon.
On Monday afternoon, investigators completed their probe of the fire, which happened at about noon on Sunday at 39 Davidson St. in St. Catharines. Deputy Chief David Wood said the fire marshal’s office and inspectors from the department’s fire prevention office determined the fire was accidental.
“The determination was cooking on the stove was the cause,” said Wood on Monday afternoon.
Firefighters had been called to the home, located between Page and Niagara streets and — discovering heavy smoke and flames — were forced to fight the fire from outside the home.
“Our first crew went in to do an interior attack with a hose line and reported a lot of heat and heavy smoke in the structure. The platoon chief called for an evacuation of the structure due to the safety of the firefighters,” said Wood. “They were able, from the exterior of the building, to knock down major portions of the fire and our pump crew was able to go in and do an aggressive interior attack.”
During that further attack firefighters removed two dogs that had died. The occupant of the home was been found deceased inside, information investigators wouldn’t confirm that information until late Monday afternoon. The victim, according to neighbours, is an elderly woman. They were unsure of her name but they noted she lived by herself and they believed she had a lot of clutter around the house.
Wood said some of the firefighters did report an issue in getting around the home.
“From the cursory reports I’m getting from the officers inside the structure, there were some rooms that had excessive combustibles, excessive products in the rooms that made it hard for them to get around and do their interior search,” said Wood.
The intensity of the fire meant there was still smoke billowing from the home more than an hour later, and there were still hot spots inside the home. Firefighters were on the roof cutting a hole to ensure the fire didn’t breach the attic.
Wood noted the kitchen area, where the fire originated, and the front living room area, just inside the foyer, were “charred pretty good.”
“It had the most extensive fire in those areas,” Wood said, noting damage is estimated at more than $100,000. He said firefighters were able to ensure the fire didn’t spread to any of the neighbouring homes, although some may have suffered smoke infiltration, or minor damages to the exterior due to the proximity of the fire.
Investigation into the fire took place from Sunday afternoon through to Monday afternoon, leading to investigators determining the cause. Wood said fire prevention investigators were unable to determine whether there were smoke alarms on the main level of the home due to the damage, but there were no smoke alarms in the basement of the home. He said all home owners need to ensure they have working smoke alarms on every level of their home as well as outside their sleeping areas.
Wood also encourages residents to have home escape plans in the event of a fire.
“Look at your dwelling and determine your escape route in the event of a fire, and decide on a meeting place.” he said.