Deadly fire in Halifax was caused by electrical fault in basement: fire chief

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HALIFAX — An investigation into a Halifax-area blaze that took the life of an 11-year-old girl and a 58-year-old man suggests it was the result of an electrical fault that started in the basement of a duplex, says the city’s fire chief.

Ken Stuebing extended condolences to the family Monday, and said he hopes the incident prompts citizens to install more smoke alarms in their home.

“At this time, I want to urge those listening or watching at home to make sure you have working smoke alarms on every floor of your homes. There was one working smoke alarm in this home, but it’s our belief if there had been more than one working smoke alarm, the outcome might have been different,” he said in a news release.

The RCMP has not confirmed the identities of the two people who died, but a friend has identified the male victim as Marven Hart and the girl as his granddaughter Carys Barnes.

Hart’s wife, Pat, was being treated in hospital, while his son Trent, 18, was in hospital with life-threatening injuries following the fire in the suburb of Lower Sackville early Saturday.

Stuebing described the deaths and injuries as an “absolute tragedy,” and said it is a reminder for homeowners to look around their homes and consider if they have working smoke alarms on every floor.

“Do you have two clear exits from every room in your house? These are the questions that when you answer ‘Yes’ you can save a life,” he said.

The existing smoke detector in the house was on the stairwell going up to the second floor, while the fire started in the basement and spread upwards.

Current building codes require a smoke detector in each bedroom, one five metres from the bedrooms in the hallway, and a smoke detector on the main floor and in the basement. They are to be connected and should go off simultaneously if there is a fire in any room.

However, the duplex in Lower Sackville was constructed in the 1970s and therefore didn’t have to meet modern building requirements, said Stuebing.

“The families and community suffered a huge loss this weekend and I know some of our firefighters are suffering right now too. They signed up for this job to save lives. And on this occasion, we weren’t able to save everyone,” he said.

“Support is being provided and we will continue to support our team.”

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