Excessive Accumulation of Combustible Materials – Inspection Orders

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      Colin LaheyColin Lahey
      Participant

      In the past, our Department (Burlington) had not been issuing Inspection Orders for excessive accumulations of combustible materials (hoarding) in single family detached homes.

      In the case of hoarding in detached single family homes we would ensure smoke and CO alarm compliance as well as address any concerns with respect to storage in the vicinity or on top of ignition sources such as stoves, hot water heaters, furnaces, etc. Furthermore, any concerns with respect to the health of minors in the home or any signs of previous fires would also be addressed as necessary.

      Following these steps our Department took the position that the issue was one of a moral concern and we had no legally substantive recourse to correct it.

      In multi-unit residential buildings we have always issued Inspection Orders to address the above concerns as well as minimum percentages of open floor area, clear widths for egress and pile heights as necessary.

      Following a recent presentation at our local Chapter meeting, it was evident that other Municipalities were issuing Inspection Orders in single family homes and not just in multi-unit residential buildings and as such we approached our Legal Department for advice.

      In short, our Legal Department found no reason that we would differentiate between a detached single family home and a unit of residential occupancy in a multi-unit residential building and recommended that we issue Inspection Orders in both cases requiring corrective actions to mitigate the concerns relating to the excessive accumulations of combustible materials. We believe that their rationale in large part was based on the fact that it is not our position to “weight” or assign value to a fire safety issue based on the number of lives that could be affected in the event a fire was to occur.

      Please let me know what your Department is doing with respect to Inspection Orders for excessive accumulations of combustible materials (hoarding) in both detached single family homes and multi-unit residential buildings.

      Much appreciated,

      Colin Lahey
      Fire Prevention Officer
      Burlington Fire Department
      [email protected]

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