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Daughter shocked to learn firefighters came and left as 95-year-old mom died in fire

اخبارالعرب 24-كندا:الاثنين 19 أكتوبر 2020 04:04 صباحاً When Yvette Galisheff awoke to a frantic message from her sister saying their 95-year-old mother had died in a fire in her Toronto seniors' building, she couldn't believe what she was hearing.

"That's a shattering call," said Galisheff, 65, who lives in Vancouver.

"Not in a million years [do] you imagine something like that," she said. "I really honestly thought she'd just passed away in her bed."

Her mother, Elaine Emile, was in her kitchen on Oct. 5 when a fire broke out, she said. It's not yet known how it started. 

That morning, Toronto Fire officials told media they had been called to St. Paul's Terrace Seniors Residence in east-end Toronto just after 8 a.m. They said they had found a body in one of the units, as well as signs of a fire that was already out when they arrived.   

But Toronto Fire didn't tell the media that a building-wide fire alarm had actually sounded in the middle of the night — and that firefighters came, determined nothing was wrong and left. 

That detail came to light when Galisheff called one of her mother's neighbours to try to learn more about what happened. The neighbour, who declined to speak to CBC News, told her that the building's fire alarm had gone off at about 2 a.m.  — several hours before Emile's body was found. 

Yvette Galisheff says the thought of her mother dying in a fire while no help arrived 'brings me to tears.' (Zoom screenshot/Nicole Ireland/CBC)

Another resident of the building told CBC News that after the alarm woke her, she turned on the lobby channel on her television and saw that firefighters were on scene. She said the alarm blared for about half an hour, then stopped.

CBC News has agreed to withhold her identity because she fears repercussions for speaking out. 

For Galisheff, the fact that firefighters were in the building but didn't find her mother has become the most upsetting aspect of her death. 

"It brings me to tears because my mom, you know, she could have been just burning and she couldn't [put] out the flames," she said. 

"I'm sure she sat there for some time and ... no one came to help her."

Galisheff's sister, who lives in Toronto, went to the unit after the fire and took photos, including one of Emile's walker. 

CBC News has seen the photo, in which the seat of the walker appears charred and bent.

Offices of chief coroner, fire marshal investigating

In an email to Galisheff, the coroner who performed the autopsy on her mother confirmed her death was "probably sometime in the middle of the night" and "due to the effects of fire."

Ontario's Office of the Chief Coroner said it has opened an investigation into Emile's death.

Coroners are called to investigate deaths that occur suddenly and unexpectedly, spokesperson Stephanie Rea said in an email.

The exact cause of death is not yet available, Rea said, but "effects of fire" could include burns, smoke or carbon monoxide inhalation, heat or injury from falling debris. 

The province's Office of the Fire Marshal is also investigating. 

The fire alarm sounded at St. Paul's Terrace Seniors Residence before 2 a.m. ET on Oct. 5 and was turned off about half an hour later, a building resident told CBC News. (Darek Zdzienicki/CBC)

Diane Duncan, executive director of St. Paul's Terrace Seniors Residence, said Emile was "a valued community member and longtime resident."

"The safety of all building occupants is always a priority," Duncan said in an emailed statement. "The Terrace's fire safety system is inspected regularly and the systems functioned as expected, notifying Toronto Fire Services, who responded quickly." 

Duncan also confirmed that there is always 24-hour security in the building. 

"Security was onsite assisting Toronto Fire Services. The fire alarm was turned off by security under the direction of Fire Services," she said. 

Larry Cocco, a deputy chief with Toronto Fire Services, confirmed that firefighters responded to an alarm at St. Paul's Terrace at about 2 a.m. on Oct. 5. 

When asked why the crew didn't find the fire in Emile's unit, Cocco said he can't provide specific details while the matter is under investigation and that Toronto Fire is still gathering all of the facts. 

"First and foremost, our condolences go out to the loved ones that have lost a family member,"  he said. "We take it very seriously to conduct a comprehensive investigation."

Emile's family will be provided with all of the findings of the investigation, Cocco said.  

Sprinkler system not required by law

Her mother's death has led Galisheff to question why there was no automatic sprinkler system in her mother's unit. 

The answer, said Manny Garcia, a risk management specialist with the Office of the Fire Marshal, is that St. Paul's Terrace "is classified as an independent living building."

Elaine Emile, the victim of the fatal fire, pictured in her younger years. (Submitted by Nadya Galisheff)

Under the Ontario Building Code, sprinkler systems had to be installed in condominiums and apartments in newly built highrises as of 2010. In 2013, buildings with "vulnerable occupancy" — including long-term care homes, retirement homes and other assisted-living facilities — were given five years to install sprinklers. 

Since St. Paul's Terrace was built long before 2010 and isn't classified as an assisted-living facility, sprinklers in individual units aren't required. 

All of this brings little comfort to Galisheff as she mourns her mother.

"I just hope that she died quickly and she didn't suffer for a long time," she said. 

The only thing that will bring her some measure of peace, she said, is accountability, with the hope that no other seniors die the way her mother did. 

"I want them to admit that they dropped the ball. I would like them to say ... 'You know what? We made a terrible mistake and we are sorry for that mistake. We are going to change all of this. We are never going to do this again.'"

تم ادراج الخبر والعهده على المصدر، الرجاء الكتابة الينا لاي توضبح - برجاء اخبارنا بريديا عن خروقات لحقوق النشر للغير

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