Bill Proposes Requiring Fire Alarm Systems, Other Building Code Updates in Ontario

TORONTO -- Allowing buildings to have fire escapes constructed of wood just doesn't make sense in 2005, and Ontario's building code should be changed to outlaw them, New Democrat member Michael Prue said Thursday.

Prue's private member's bill, which was scheduled for second-reading debate on Thursday, would force building owners to replace wooden fire escapes with more modern ones made of iron or concrete.

There are "tens of thousands" of wood buildings across the province that need better fire escapes, and the cost of replacing them would be minimal, especially given that landlords could pass it on in the form of a rent hike, he said.

The bill would also require landlords to install interconnected fire alarms in the hallways of apartment buildings, instead of relying on panicked tenants to find a wall-pull to trigger loud bells - a key recommendation of a coroner's inquest into a 1999 Toronto fire which claimed two lives.

Private member's bills rarely become law in Ontario, but Prue hopes his will get second-reading approval and be sent to committee for public hearings.

He said it would be up to the committee to determine a timeline for implementation, and to decide if landlords should have to pick up all the cost of replacing the old wooden fire escapes.