Investigators are unable to determine the cause of a Christmas Eve cottage fire in Stoney Lake, Ont., which killed a Toronto-area family.
The fire on Hamilton Drive North in Douro-Dummer Township, about 35 kilometres north of Peterborough, claimed the lives of Geoff Taber, his wife Jacquie and their teenage sons, Scott and Andrew, along with two dogs. They lived in Toronto’s Riverdale neighbourhood.
On Thursday morning, the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal and Emergency Management said it had completed its extensive investigation which included fire pattern and forensic analysis and examination of the dwelling’s utilities.
Investigators determined the fire originated in the ground floor living room area and spread through an open stairwell between the ground floor and second floor, situated in the centre of the residence.
But due to the extreme damage, a specific ignition source could not be identified.
However, investigators say the cottage did have multiple smoke alarms.
But given the unique layout of the cottage (open centre stairwell and vaulted ceilings), the wall-mounted smoke alarms and the fire’s location, investigators believe those factors may have delayed the activation of the smoke alarms.
Investigators say the delay may have contributed to the family not having an early warning of the fire.
“This tragedy reinforces the importance of having smoke alarms installed properly and in the correct location, according to the manufacturer’s instructions,” stated Ross Nichols, Ontario Fire Marshal and Chief of Emergency Management.
“Early warning of a fire in your home significantly increases the likelihood of survival, and Ontario law requires that working smoke alarms be located on every storey of the home and outside all sleeping areas. It is important that everyone knows what to do when the smoke alarm sounds. Developing and practising a home fire escape plan is your best chance of surviving a fire.”
Geoff Taber, 56, worked with the Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt law firm in Toronto. He was an avid cyclist in the Beaches area. Jacquie Taber, 47, was a former lawyer who raised their boys and volunteered at Toronto East General Hospital. Scott, 15, attended Greenwood College School while Andrew, 13, attended Montcrest and Franland Community elementary schools. Both were avid hockey players.