Quebec may toughen sprinkler laws after deadly seniors' home fire

Mon Jan 27, 2014 5:39pm EST
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By Randall Palmer

L'ISLE-VERTE, Quebec (Reuters) - Quebec might speed up introduction of tougher laws on installing sprinklers at seniors' residences after a fire that is believed to have killed 32 people, the Canadian province's health minister said on Monday.

Police, braving bitter cold and snow squalls, are methodically melting the ice that has encased bodies in the ruins of the Residence du Havre, which caught fire on Thursday.

Police have found 14 bodies and another 18 people remain missing and are presumed dead, said spokesman Michel Brunet.

The three-story wooden home in L'Isle-Verte, a picturesque town about 230 km (143 miles) northeast of Quebec City, was only partially equipped with sprinklers, which are not obligatory at privately run Quebec residences in which some residents are mobile.

A special committee of police, fire-prevention and building experts in Quebec started looking last year into how to tighten regulations on sprinklers in privately run seniors' homes.

"It's not a simple problem. If it had been simple it would have been done (already)," Quebec Health Minister Rejean Hebert said at a news conference in the town after meeting survivors.

"We're still working very hard on this and I think the tragedy of L'Isle-Verte will probably accelerate the work of this committee," he said.


Emergency workers look on while digging through the remains of the senior residence Residence du Havre in L'Isle Verte, Quebec, January 25, 2014. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger