You can now look up your highrise building's fire inspection reports online
The move follows a Metro story on fire safety reports being kept secret. But it doesn't go far enough for some tenants.
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Six months after London's deadly Grenfell Tower fire, Toronto tenants living in highrises can finally look up the results of fire inspections in their own buildings.
The city and Toronto Fire Services launched a searchable online portal on Tuesday, containing fire safety information on 1,442 residential highrises, including Toronto Community Housing buildings.
The move follows a Metro story on fire safety reports being kept secret from tenants. A North York man was told last summer he had to make a freedom-of-information request to learn about his own building.
Tenants and potential tenants can now see when inspections were done, what fire code violations inspectors found and when they were resolved. The portal only contains information on closed inspections, dated January 2017 onward.
"The goal obviously was to make this type of information more accessible, easily available, for those tenants that have questions about the status of their building and maybe some of the history of their building," said Toronto Fire Services deputy chief Jim Jessop.
"I am not aware of any other fire service in this province that has anything close to what we have launched."
Fire services committed to getting the results online by the end of the year at October's tenant issues committee, where they were questioned on current practices.
Open data advocate Mark Richardson, who has pushed fire services to become more transparent, called it a "good first step." But he'd like to see them go a step further and follow the DineSafe model, which has more comprehensive information.
Mark Legate, the tenant who was instructed to file a freedom-of-information request, told Metro in an email that the portal does not address his concerns as it does not include information on open fire code violations.
"The issue has always been that tenants are not being made aware when the violations are known and not yet addressed. That is the point when tenants need the information about the safety of their apartments/buildings; not weeks, months or even years later when the issue is 'closed.'"
Jessop said he knows "there's always going to be criticism" but feels the department has made "massive strides."
He said they will consider adding other building types in the future and noted the need to strike a balance between transparency and respecting building owners’ right to due process and not prejudicing cases before the courts.
Coun. Josh Matlow, chair of the Tenant Issues Committee, said he's "impressed" with how quickly fire services moved to get the information online.
"What was clear to me after the tragedy in London was that tenants in Toronto did not have ready access to information about the fire safety in their own buildings, and when they sought to find out that information they had to go through this absurdly laborious and tedious process," he said.
Ontario's fire code is different than the U.K.'s, and Toronto Fire Services has previously stressed to Metro that any building that's a risk to the public would be shut down immediately.
But it's still comforting for tenant advocate and ACORN member Alejandra Ruiz Vargas to have information on a building's track record at tenants' fingertips.
"It's a good beginning," she said, adding she'd like to see the same information for all residential buildings, not just highrises. "This is something really positive for people and to really empower people."
Check out your building:
You can access the portal at toronto.ca.
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