Pushing for fire prevention
Local landlord partners with Woodstock Fire Department to advocate for fire prevention
Following a fire safety negligence conviction, a local landlord has taken the charges in stride by partnering with the Woodstock Fire Department to become a voice for fire prevention.
On Aug. 14, a townhouse at 520 Ingersoll Ave. in Woodstock caught fire. The property owner was charged with $6,250 in fire safety fines, including failure to install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
It’s been a learning experience, but I’ve become a complete advocate.”
Next door, Wilma Boughtflower’s property received heavy smoke damage from the blaze. She also received $3,750 in fines due to the failure to install alarms. Despite the charges, she said she has made friends with Woodstock’s fire prevention team and has learned from her mistakes as she looks to educate other landlords on the importance of fire safety.
“It’s been a learning experience, but I’ve become a complete advocate,” said Boughtflower, who has been a landlord for more than a decade.
The 77-year-old said the negligence came through a lack of knowledge, but she is now working with fire prevention officers to bring more awareness to fire safety, a topic she says the public should consider more frequently.
No one was injured in the August blaze, but Boughtflower understands how the incident could have easily have been deadly. “A tragedy can happen so quickly, and we never think it’s going to happen to us – but it certainly can. That’s why its so important to have the proper fire prevention in your home because I didn’t,” she said.
Lukasz Kasprzyk, a fire prevention officer, explained that many landlords simply don’t know what their responsibilities are when it comes to checking and replacing alarms.
“We’re able to reach a niche market that we have difficulty with,” said Kasprzyk. “Having her as an advocate, a partner in prevention … we’re very fortunate and appreciate her efforts.”
With the partnership, Kasprzyk hopes Boughtflower’s story will shine a light on much-needed public awareness of fire code requirements that apply to landlords who rent properties to tenants.
“It further educates the public at large to comply with the fire code and that fire prevention is everyone’s business,” added Kasprzyk. Acting fire Chief Jeff Slager explained that charges in these cases often come as a last resort as a way to get the message across. With a $365 fine for having one smoke alarm not maintained, he said they would much rather have that money put into the building. “For that money, you buy the top-of-the-line smoke alarms for each level of a three-storey home and still have money for dinner after,” he said. “We’d much rather see that invested into the safety than into an enforcement action and still have to replace the units anyway.”
From left, Brian Egan, Lukasz Kasprzyk, Wilma Boughtflower, Jeff Slager, and Lisa Woods look to get the message out about the important of checking smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.