Push­ing for fire preven­tion

Lo­cal land­lord part­ners with Wood­stock Fire Depart­ment to ad­vo­cate for fire preven­tion

Sentinel-Review (Woodstock) - - NEWS - CHRIS FUN­STON

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.”

Wilma Bought­flower

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.”

CHRIS FUN­STON/SEN­TINEL-RE­VIEW

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.

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