Posted October 14, 2021
Tenants of a Brampton rental housing complex say city officials and building owners have been slow to address fire safety problems that have long concerned building residents.
Tanya Burkart, a resident living at the 51 - 67 Ardglen Drive units, has joined ACORN Peel to address safety issues.
She said Brampton Fire has responded to units, multiple times this year, for either fire-related purposes or other emergencies and the situation isn’t getting better.
Among her concerns are a lack of functioning fire and carbon monoxide alarms, structural fire hazards, faulty wiring and squirrels living in the building.
On multiple occasions, Burkart said she and her neighbours have had to alert other tenants in the middle of the night to building fires by pounding on their front doors when alarms didn’t go off.
She also said on multiple occasions, firefighters had to break down the building's door as they are “designed to keep people out” and not easily opened without a key.
“It's very stressful, the unit beside us and (next) one over had fires. It’s kind of terrifying, you don’t sleep at night sometimes,” she said.
In the two years Burkart has lived at Ardglen, she can recall multiple fires, including those that have taken place this year.
The City of Brampton has confirmed the fire department attended the Ardglen buildings four times this year for fire-related calls, which including a possible gas leak.
On June 8 at 63 Ardglen, a house fire occurred, which is now under investigation with the fire marshal.
On June 24, a house fire was reported at 55 Ardglen due to an “overloaded circuit and deteriorated extension cord” and on Aug. 23, firefighters responded to an electrical fire which caused a “light haze in the building.”
The property management team, Cogir Real Estate, said they have been working to fix the “deficient, structural challenges and system issues” they noted were “inherited” when they took over the property three years ago.
Burkart acknowledged some part of combating the fires comes down to educating tenants, but that structural matters must also be fixed.
Another tenant, Gerene O’Riley, has made multiple complaints to both the landlord and Brampton Fire about noxious smells in parts of her unit and building.
On one occurrence, she said, the smell was so bad she had migraines, burning eyes and throat pains, which prompted emergency services to check her vitals and the unit’s air quality.
Brampton Fire confirmed crews attended on Aug. 27 and “ventilated the smell in the house” believed to be coming from the laundry tub. Air quality tests found no gas leaks, but O’Riley says the smells persist.
“I’m so uncomfortable in my home,” she said, adding that she feels “gaslit” as multiple building managers have told her there is no smell and nothing is wrong.
“That’s why I’ve been so frustrated in dealing with this matter, I’m smelling it and my daughter is smelling it,” she said.
In July, Brampton Fire issued multiple inspection orders to “ensure fire safety” at the complex through structural updates and replacements to 51-67 Ardglen Ltd.
Some of the orders were more than 10 pages long and said fire alarms and extinguishers were not properly checked or tested.
Damaged fire separations in the basement and main floor, failure to use extension cords as designed and failure to conduct fire drills were also listed.
All of the orders were due to be corrected on Aug. 2 or the owners could face up to $20,000 in fines per day.
Asked about the status of those orders, the city said some were “near completion” but were appealed by the owners for more time to comply.
The appeals are under review with the Office of the Fire Marshal at this time and the status of fines unknown, said the city.
It is unknown when the issues will be fixed or how much time the owners have to correct them.
The city said there were “no trends” reported across the fires, and that the fire department is working with property owners to “ensure smoke and carbon monoxide alarm compliance.”
As Burkart waits for the inspection orders to be completed, she can’t help but wonder why it has taken so long to have the issues addressed, calling her main goal of each tenant having a functioning fire alarm a "simple request."
“It shouldn’t be this difficult, in other communities and other economic neighbourhoods, these things already exist, I don’t understand why Ardglen as a whole community is left so far behind,” she said.
Article by Sabrina Gamrot for the Brampton Guardian