Montreal's fire department reports it has carried out hundreds of inspections as part of a push to secure potentially hazardous buildings following a March fire in Old Montreal that killed seven people.
The effort, dubbed Operation Vulcan, initially focused on heritage buildings in the city core, but was later expanded to include other high-risk buildings across Montreal Island as well as buildings subject to citizen complaints. Such complaints tripled in the month following the March 16 blaze, the fire department said.
Department assistant director Chantal Bibeau told the city council's public safety committee Tuesday that fire officials conducted 460 inspections as part of the operation between April and the end of September. The inspections uncovered 2,042 elements that did not conform to fire safety rules, and resulted in 13 notices to property owners demanding immediate changes.
Those property owners had 48 hours to produce an action plan to correct problems or face legal action.
The 460 targeted inspections were in addition to 5,292 regular building inspections that the fire department carried out between January and September.
Bibeau reported the department has carried out 12,391 total inspections, including other types of inspections and follow-ups, since the beginning of the year. That’s an increase from the 11,572 inspections in 2022, but well below previous years. The total number of inspection-related activities in 2017 was 29,598.
Bibeau defended the lower figures, saying fire officials are focusing their efforts on high-risk situations.
“It’s relative,” she told the committee. “We could do inspections of buildings that are easy to inspect, or that are all recent construction. That’s not what we want. What we want is to work in the right places.”
The fire department's presentation followed an August city council motion from the opposition calling for an update on inspection efforts since the March fire, which is now the subject of a criminal investigation by the Montreal police department.
Reacting to the presentation Tuesday afternoon, opposition Coun. Alan de Sousa said the city administration and fire department need to be clearer about their inspection targets under the new approach.
"We need to have some sense of the total number of buildings to be done in what time period," de Sousa told reporters. “It’s a question of life and death."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 24, 2023.
Thomas MacDonald, The Canadian Press