February 22nd, 2024

End public funding of privately owned rooming hotels, says B.C. fire inquest jury

By The Canadian Press on February 5, 2024.

Demolition takes place at the Winters Hotel in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 22, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

BURNABY, B.C. – The jury in a coroner’s inquest into the Winters Hotel fire that killed two people in Vancouver two years ago has recommended ending public funding for single-room-occupancy hotels in privately owned buildings.

It’s among more than two dozen recommendations, including that BC Housing work with operators and owners to ensure SRO buildings be held to higher fire safety standards than the minimum.

The inquest examined the deaths of Mary Ann Garlow and Dennis Guay, whose bodies were found in the rubble of the hotel in Vancouver’s Gastown neighbourhood more than a week after the April 11, 2022, fire.

The inquest that began on Jan. 22 heard that candles left on a bed started the blaze and that sprinklers in the building didn’t work because they hadn’t been reset since a smaller fire three days earlier.

The jury has ruled the deaths of Garlow, 63, and Guay 53, as accidental, caused by thermal injuries and smoke inhalation.

It says fire precautions should be upgraded in SRO hotels, which cater to some of the city’s most vulnerable people, including backup fire extinguishers and a “buddy system” to help people with disabilities in the event of a fire.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 5, 2024.

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