L'Isle-Verte: Report suggests Quebec was aware of fire risks

A report this morning suggests the Quebec government knew how urgent it was to install sprinkler systems in seniors' home, close to a year before a portion of a seniors' residence burned to the ground in the town of L'Isle-Verte in January, killing 32 elderly residents.

The Résidence du Havre in L'Isle-Verte was only partially equipped with sprinkler systems. The part of the building that wasn't caught fire on Jan. 23.

La Presse quotes documents obtained under the Access to Information Act which suggest that in early 2013, a committee called to study the issue of fire safety in seniors' homes met twice. The minutes of the meetings — which included representatives from the public security ministry, the health ministry and the housing board — suggest the participants were well aware of how devastating a fire could be at a home not equipped with a functional sprinkler system.

"Protection of seniors' homes has improved in recent years, but [that protection] is limited and the effects of a fire could have devastating effects on the life and health of residents," said Roger Gaudreau from the public security ministry. "The best way to reduce the risk today would be the presence of sprinkler systems and related equipment."

"Residences where the risk is highest are those with a combustible structure, those with 10 to 80 units," said André St-Hilaire from the Laval fire department. "We have to make that a priority."

It is not clear precisely who in government might have actually seen these documents.

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