The deaths of two people in a fire at a downtown Vancouver SRO more than a year ago were “accidental,” the result of smoke inhalation and thermal injuries, a B.C. coroner’s inquest jury has determined.
The bodies of Mary Ann Garlow, 63, and Dennis James Guay, 53, were found in the wreckage of the Winters Hotel at Abbott and Water streets more than a week after the fire on April 11, 2022.
The disaster also hospitalized five people and displaced 140 others from the four-storey building, which also contained a women’s shelter and seven businesses.
The unanimous verdicts, reached after nearly two weeks of testimony at a Burnaby courthouse, carry no legal finding of fault. However, each came with a suite of recommendations for preventing similar tragedies in the future.
Winters Hotel inquest: Atira director testifies
The deadly fire at the Winters Hotel took place just three days after another fire, which was extinguished by the building’s sprinklers. On April 8, 2022, Vancouver Fire Rescue Services (VFRS) ordered Atira Property Management — which leased and operated the SRO — to have the fire systems serviced and the sprinklers reset.
That didn’t happen right away, the inquest heard, and on April 11, the sprinklers never deployed to extinguish the flames.
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Jurors recommended that BC Housing work with building owners or lease agreement holders to commit them to a higher standard of fire code safety, to use smoke detectors with adjustable sensitivity and to keep extra fire extinguishers on-hand.
They also recommended the Crown corporation use purpose-built buildings for people with disabilities and complex needs, and ensure that fire safety plans include individualized plans for people with disabilities.
More to come
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