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Private Members Bill A Hot Topic

Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Agriculture - Randy Pettapiece (Courtesy: Ontario Legislature)

The death of two fallen Ontario firefighters back in 2011 ignited the push for a private members bill to prevent such tragedies from happening again.

QUEENS PARK - Truss and lightweight constructed building fires are top of mind for some policy makers lately. 

A fire that broke out in July at Tim Hortons in Arthur, has prompted Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Agriculture, Randy Pettapiece to speak at Queens Park this week.

Despite the fact there were no injuries in the blaze, firefighters say it was a difficult fire to battle due to the fact they were unaware the building used truss and lightweight construction. 

Back in April of 2017, Pettapiece was passionate about passing a private members bill, introducing the Rea and Walter Act.  It would require truss and lightweight construction to be identified on most commercial and industrial buildings.

Pettapiece says the bill could help to save lives in the future. 

"So we need to have this identification on buildings so they can see before they even enter the building, and that is what we are really after." 

The bill lost momentum and died when there was no action taken by the Liberals, despite unanimous support from all parties, the bill died when the previous Liberal government failed to act on it.

The Rea and Walter Act is named in memory of two North Perth Fire Service members, Ken Rea and Ray Walter, who died battling a fire in March 2011.

Despite some time passing, Pettapiece remains passionate for the private members bill to be passed. 

"The bill has been introduced twice and they refused to let it go through committee, so what we want to do is re-introduce it again and get it to committee stage and get it in there as quickly as possible."  

As for the fire on July 21st, it took 30 fire fighters to contain the blaze.  

Locally, Woodstock Fire Chief, Jeff Slager has his own concerns and says the bill would be helpful moving forward. 

"As the city of Woodstock continues to grow, we are going to come across more structures that have this type of construction (truss and lightweight construction) that they dealt with in Arthur, and we always hope that we are never in that type of situation, but that is the unpredictability of the job that our people face, because you never know what your going to be dealing with."

Slager says that often buildings can appear to be safe, but often enough, that is not the case.

"So when a fire does get going and it is effecting the truss and such, there is less materials for it to burn through before the floor structure that it is designed to support can collapse."

Pettapiece plans to continue to push the issue, stressing how badly fire fighters need the  Rea and Walter Act to pass.  He believes that properly identifying affected buildings may prevent catastrophic situations.   

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