Two fires Saturday focus attention on smoke alarms

SURREY – Roughly 80 per cent of the house fires Surrey firefighters have responded to had fire alarms, but only about 30 per cent of them were working, Deputy Fire Chief Dan Barnscher said.

A house fire in Fleetwood last Thursday killed an elderly woman, sent two other people to Vancouver General Hospital’s burn unit and a third to Royal Columbian Hospital.

Three children were in the basement suite. “None of the children were harmed in any way,” Barnscher said.

The fire was contained to the front living room on the second floor and investigators are still trying to determine its cause.

Barnscher said there were four smoke alarms in the house but none were working. One had no battery, in another the battery was disconnected, one hardwired alarm had been pulled out, and the other was disconnected.

Barnscher said fire alarms should be tested at least once a month and if it’s a battery alarm, the battery should be changed twice per year.

Meanwhile, two house fires on Saturday in South Surrey and Newton kept firefighters busy. It was not known at the Now’s print deadline Monday if either were equipped with working fire alarms. It was also not known what caused the fires.

The first happened at 11:30 a.m., in the 16300-block of 48th Avenue. The elderly couple living in the rancher were not home at the time. There are no fire hydrants in the area, so firefighters had to bring water in from the nearest hydrant.

The rancher was severely damaged, Barnscher said. “It was unsafe to enter.” The couple’s pet dog and cat are missing.

“We’re assuming they perished.”

The second fire happened in the 12600-block of 69th Avenue, just after 5 p.m. The roof of the two-storey house collapsed, but no one was injured.

Barnscher said at press time that investigators were still trying to determine if either house had working smoke alarms.