Students urged to check housing’s fire safety

Gary Laframboise in his office at the Oakville fire department training facility. For fire prevention inquiries, he can be reached at

Gary Laframboise in his office at the Oakville fire department training facility. For fire prevention inquiries, he can be reached at (Photo by Will Dixon / The Sheridan Sun)


When choosing off-campus student housing, it’s crucial to know more about your place than just how close it is to school.

“If you’re going to rent a place, just push the test button yourself, make sure it works,” said Gary Laframboise, chief fire prevention officer with the Oakville Fire Department. It’s crucial to have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors outside of all sleeping areas, said Laframboise. He has found multiple cases of the landlord being afraid that new tenants will steal the smoke alarms, so they take them down when new students move in.

“You can’t do that. You’re putting people’s lives in danger,” he said.

Students renting basement apartments should ask landlords if there’s a 30-minute separation in the floor, meaning that their ceiling would stop a fire from spreading downward for half an hour.

When moving in, Laframboise recommends seeing if the landlord is licensed with the town. Most municipalities have bylaws that people looking to rent space need to abide by.

“If you’re a student moving in, ask them if they’re licensed,” said Laframboise. If a fire code violation is found, and the landlord isn’t licensed with the town and they’re not willing to make the changes to the residence, then the students would have to be evicted, he said.


The fire prevention division is aware that there are a lot of student houses, but they just don’t know where they are.

“All our inspections now, really, are based on complaints,” said Laframboise.

But a single complaint is all they need to get in.

“Once we get a complaint, we won’t go away,” he said. While fire prevention will try to get in contact with the homeowner, it’s not required.

“Under the fire code, [the student] has care and control, they can grant us access,” he said. Even if the landlord tries to deny access, fire prevention will get an entry warrant.

“We actually have more powers of entry than the Halton Regional Police,” said Laframboise, adding that it’s because of the Fire Protection and Prevention Act.

In the upcoming holiday season, Laframboise wants people to be aware of their decorations, candles and cooking.

The most common cause for fire in Oakville is a cooking fire, he said. During the holidays however, some people will go to a party, have a few drinks, come home and then maybe start to cook something, explained Laframboise. Others will light candles and leave the room, forgetting to put out the flame.

While putting up Christmas lights, it’s important to check the wires to make sure nothing is broken or frayed. Don’t do anything like stapling lights to the walls or pinning them up, because it can lead to damaging the insulation on the wires and can cause an electrical fire.

Students who suspect their housing isn’t up to par, can call fire prevention at 905-338-4404.