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Tragedy sparks building code changes to improve firefighter safety


On this day, 11 years ago, North Perth firefighters, Ken Rea and Ray Walter, were killed after the roof of a dollar store, engulfed in flames, collapsed on top of them, in Listowel.

Today, after many years of lobbying and debate, changes to Ontario’s building code have been enacted, to try and prevent a similar tragedy.

"I don’t think there’s words to express how grateful we are to see something positive, come out of this situation, that’s taken the life of two heroes, plus affected, so many other lives," says Holly Walter, Ray Walter’s widow.

Ontario’s Chief building officials must now notify fire departments when commercial buildings with "light weight construction materials" are built in their communities. Municipalities must document existing “light weight construction material” built homes through Community Risk Assessments, and alert fire departments of their location. The goal of the provincial policy changes, is to give Ontario fire crews as much information about the hazards their walking into, for every fire call.

"It’s significant," says North Perth Fire Chief, Janny Pape. "The pain of losing two of our members had had a dramatic impact on many lives. The families, the firefighters, the community. These are scars we carry with us each day. But, if we can be part of eliminating that for another community, we’re happy to do that, to bring something positive out of our loss," she says.

While the building code changes don’t bear the name Rea and Walter Act, as initially proposed by Perth-Wellington MPP, Randy Pettapiece, in his 2017 Private Member’s Bill, they accomplish a very similar goal, and could become nationwide regulations, helping firefighters across the country.

"We’re looking for building code harmonization by 2024 across Canada. So, we’ve submitted it to them and hopefully, it will proceed across the country," says Pettapiece.

For Ken Rea and Ray Walter’s families, who were present for today’s announcement in Listowel, the changes brings some solace, for their immense loss.

"It’s definitely been tough processing this over the years, but after 11 years, we’re finally seeing this come to fruition, and we can’t express how grateful we are, that something positive has come from this," says Holly Walter, Ray’s wife. Top Stories

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