Tenants will be able to see how their buildings did on fire inspections by end of year
After Metro reported on fire inspection reports being kept secret from tenants, the chief pledged information on highrise building inspections will soon be available in an online database.
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Toronto highrise tenants will be able to see how their buildings fared on recent fire code inspections by the end of the year, Toronto Fire Services pledged Friday.
The news follows a Metro investigation earlier this year on one man's frustrating fight to get information about his own building's fire code inspection. He was told to file a freedom of information request, a complicated and sometimes expensive process with a labyrinth of bureaucracy.
Toronto Fire Services Chief Matthew Pegg acknowledged at Friday’s Tenant Issues Committee that in the past the process has been “very cumbersome,” and “not effective and efficient.”
"We understand that there is a need to improve open access to data,” added deputy chief Jim Jessop.
Jessop said the service's goal is to provide tenants living in highrise buildings information from January 2017 to present on the date Toronto Fire was in their building, a copy of noted violations if any, and the date violations were cleared.
Notices of violations will only be posted online once the file has been closed by Toronto Fire. The department is already required by law to post certain orders and notices in buildings after fire inspections. All highrise buildings were inspected in 2016 for fire code violations said Jessop, but he did not have offhand a breakdown of number of violations and which buildings they were in.
Money for the open data initiative is already built into Toronto Fire Service's 2018 budget request, which has not yet been approved by council. Chief Pegg did not have a dollar figure for how much it would cost.
Tenant issues committee chair councilor Josh Matlow said he heard from many concerned tenants who were "incredibly scared by what they saw” following the tragic Grenfell Tower fire in London, England, which killed at least 80 people.
"When they tried to address that fear and access knowledge and access information they found that it was this absurdly frustrating process,” he told the committee.
"They could not know within a reasonable period of time, with any sort of rational process as to whether or not their building was safe."
Matlow applauded fire services for making an effort to be more transparent, as did Geordie Dent, executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations.
"I think it's great because many tenants just want to ensure that they're not living in a death trap, and I think rightly feel that they deserve to know that" he said in an interview after the meeting.
"This has actually been an ongoing issue for years but the bigger problem is there's been no central data base, there's been no place you can service this information,” he added.
"Nobody wants to live in a fire trap without knowing that.”