Fire inspections spotty

A former Whitehorse daycare was a fire hazard, according to its owner. Linda Bonnefoy lost her licence to work with children because of an injury, and is now relocating to Haines Junction.

A former Whitehorse daycare was a fire hazard, according to its owner.

Linda Bonnefoy lost her licence to work with children because of an injury, and is now relocating to Haines Junction.

“When I sold my house, I learned that I could have had a fire in my house at any time,” Bonnefoy told city council last week.

The daycare could often hold up to 40 parents and children at any given time, she said.

“I could have compromised the life of any of these children, especially the ones that were sleeping in my home.”

Every year, Bonnefoy’s Riverdale home was inspected by city fire officials and there was no reason to believe there was a problem with her stove.

However, when she sold her home, she got a full inspection done.

“They went down inside my chimney and they found blisters,” said Bonnefoy.

“And also my wood stove was condemned.”

She raised the issue with child-care services to ensure that these things don’t go unnoticed in the future.

“A lot of the requirements we have for inspections come from the National Fire Code,” said Whitehorse Fire Chief Clive Sparks.

“And for things such as heating equipment and appliances we tell the owner of the home or business that the heating appliance should be inspected by a qualified person.”

Initial installations of chimneys and heating appliances are inspected through the Whitehorse building inspection department.

After that, the onus is on the owners to have their chimney maintained and inspected regularly.

The city’s fire inspectors aren’t qualified to climb up on the roof and look down someone’s chimney, said Sparks.

“We don’t have the training to inspect chimneys,” he said.

“And I wouldn’t have them climbing up on the roofs themselves to go and inspect a chimney either, from a safety perspective.”

The city’s fire inspectors check to make sure that fire extinguishers are present and in working order.

They also make sure stoves and furnaces are at a safe distance from walls, furniture and anything else that might present a fire hazard.

“We look at it visually and if things don’t look like they’re falling apart – if they look like they’re in reasonable repair – we OK it,” said Sparks.

Anyone with a wood stove should check the chimney often while first starting to use it to ensure it isn’t full of creosote, he said.

And operate your stove according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

That will help prevent chimney fires.

And once you’ve figure out how often the stove needs to be cleaned and maintained, additional inspections should probably be done once a year, Sparks added.

“I had a wood stove because I believed it was good for children to learn how to carry wood and how to stack wood,” said Bonnefoy.

“From the outside my chimney looked very safe and my wood stove looked very good.

“It wasn’t until I tried to sell my home that I realized that I was really in a position of negligence.”

Child care services declined to comment.

Contact Chris Oke at

chriso@yukon-news.com