Space heaters caused Vancouver fire that killed toddler
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, January 6, 2017 4:59PM EST
VANCOUVER -- Space heaters caused a fire that killed a sleeping toddler and injured her twin sister, older brother and mother, fire officials said Friday.
The home also did not have working smoke alarms, said Fire Chief John McKearney.
Investigators have traced the blaze to two older-model space heaters placed near a bed where the girl, who was 2 1/2, was sleeping on Thursday afternoon, he said.
The girl's mother, twin sister and older brother all escaped and were taken to hospital, where they were treated for burns and smoke inhalation.
"The mother attempted to rescue both of her daughters. She was able to rescue the one daughter. She went in to rescue the other daughter but (the fire) was too involved," McKearney said, adding the mother suffered serious burns to her face and hands.
All three family members are expected to survive.
Another family that shares the house was not home at the time of the fire, he said.
Forty-five firefighters, along with police and arson investigators, responded to the blaze.
The house was already "fairly well involved" by the time crews arrived, the chief said. Investigators have determined there was also an explosion, likely caused by aerosol cans.
McKearney said the east-end neighbourhood's roads were unusually icy because of a cold snap in Vancouver, but that did not delay the response.
Firefighters did ask for salt and sand to be put down on the street to help stop water they used to fight the fire from freezing and making the roads increasingly slick.
The case is a difficult one for first responders, McKearney said.
"This is very much one of the toughest tragedies a community can have, a family can have. And certainly for our first responders to deal with."
The outcome may have been different if the home had a working smoke alarm, McKearney said.
"This is a very sad outcome," he said. "We cannot overstate that a working smoke alarm saves lives. It's been proven time and time again."
All homes in British Columbia are required to have working smoke alarms.
McKearney encouraged people to make sure their alarms are working and to take care when using space heaters.
People should use newer space heaters that have safety features like an automatic shut off, he said, and they should not be placed close to flammable materials, including fabric.