Delay in Fire Detection Plays Role In East Gwillimbury Fatal Fire

Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services
Office of the Fire Marshal

Ministère de la Sécurité communautaire et des Services correctionnels
Bureau du commissaire des incendies

Ontario logo

Place Nouveau Building
7th Floor
5775 Yonge Street
North York ON M2M 4J1
Telephone 416-325-3100
Facsimile: 416-325-3119

Édifice Place Nouveau
7e étage
5775 rue Yonge
North York ON M2M 4J1
Téléphone : 416 325-3100
Télécopieur : 416 325-3162

OFM Logo


Ontario Fire Marshal releases preliminary findings

NEWSApril 3, 2013

The Office of the Fire Marshal (OFM) has confirmed that there was a delay in the detection of the fatal fire that occurred at 72 Howard Avenue in Sharon (East Gwillimbury). Four family members tragically perished in the March 29 fire.

Preliminary findings have revealed that the fire originated on the home’s main floor, in the laundry room.  As the fire developed, smoke and flames were drawn up a large central staircase to the second storey - trapping the family in the master bedroom. When a family member made the 911 call, the fire conditions on the home’s main floor had already blocked all avenues of escape.

The delay in the detection of this fire can be attributed to two factors. First, the lack of a smoke alarm on the main floor, and two, while there was a security/fire alarm system in the home that provided coverage for the second storey and basement; this system’s wiring ran through the main floor laundry area where the fire originated. The OFM team has established this wiring was compromised early in the fire and this would have rendered the entire system inoperable.

The scene examination phase of the fire investigation has concluded. However, several forensic examinations and tests will be required to determine the cause of the fire.

The OFM will continue its comprehensive fire investigation into the origin, cause and circumstances of the fire with assistance from the Office of the Chief Coroner, York Regional Police Service and the Town of East Gwillimbury Emergency Services.


“This tragic incident reinforces the importance of early detection of a fire in your home. Ontario law requires that working smoke alarms be located on every storey of the home and outside all sleeping areas. In addition to smoke alarms, everyone must know what to do when the smoke alarm sounds - developing and practising a home fire escape plan is your best chance of surviving a fire in your home.” 

- Tadeusz (Ted) Wieclawek, Ontario Fire Marshal


Simple steps for home fire escape planning include:

  • Determining who will be responsible for helping young children, older adults or anyone else that due to cognitive or physical limitations may require additional assistance to escape.
  • Making sure everyone knows two ways out of your residence.
  • Checking that all exits are unobstructed and easy to access.
  • Designating a meeting place outside the home, such as a tree or a lamp post, where everyone can be accounted for.
  • Calling the fire department from outside the home, from a cell phone or neighbour’s home.


Carol Gravelle, Office of the Fire Marshal, 416-325-3138

Disponible en français