Red Deer fire marshal Wes Van Bavel said secondary suite owners should ensure they are meeting all fire and building codes or face the consequences if there is a fire. Red Deer Advocate file photo

Illegal secondary suite convictions prompt fire department warning

Two property owners fined $7,000 after fire brings safety code violations to light

Two property owners have been fined $14,000 after a fire in an illegal secondary suite injured two.

Red Deer Emergency Services released details on Friday of the Jan. 9, 2018, fire and the legal consequences as a reminder to other secondary suite owners to ensure they follow the rules.

Fire marshal Wes Van Bavel said the fire in a single-family home put a family of two and three renters at risk. Two people had to get medical treatment, including one who spent almost two days in hospital for smoke inhalation.

Property owners Asif Ambreen and Khan Ullah Kashan pleaded guilty last month to several Safety Codes Act violations and were each fined $7,000.

Van Bavel said the fire was sparked by an unattended candle in one of three basement bedrooms in the secondary suite. At least one person was downstairs when the fire, which caused $150,000 damage, started in the Glendale bungalow in north Red Deer.

An investigation found no interconnected wired-in smoke alarms were in place, as required. A single battery-powered smoke alarm was found in a furnace room.

As well, one of the bedrooms had no window. Regulations require bedrooms to have a window large enough for someone to escape through. There also was not the required fire separation, a condition met typically by drywall or similar barriers.

The maximum fine for operating an illegal secondary suite under the Safety Codes Act is $100,000 for each offence and/or up to six months in prison.

Secondary suites are defined as a separate dwelling within a single-family home. They are required to meet Alberta fire and building codes.

Van Bavel said in recent years, the fire department has inspected 838 potential secondary suites in Red Deer and about 500 of those went ahead.

“The message to people is if you’re running a suite that has not been approved by the city, has not met the fire code or building code, we encourage you to come forward to make an application for that suite.

“Especially if there’s a fire and we find a suite, you will go to court, there’s no question about that.”

Van Bavel said the sentencing judge got it right when the property owners were told their negligence put not only tenants at risk, but neighbours and responding firefighters.

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