Investigators with the Office of the Fire Marshal attended the scene of a house fire in Highlands East near Gooderham on Oct. 15. They remain on the scene today, Oct. 16.

Office of the Fire Marshal investigating fatal fire in Highlands East

By Jenn Watt

Four investigators from the Office of the Fire Marshal are on the scene of a fatal house fire in Highlands East that occurred in the early morning hours of Thursday, Oct. 15. 

One victim was recovered from the house on Thursday and a post-mortem examination is scheduled for early next week. 

“We’re trying to determine the area of origin and the cause of the fire,” said Richard Derstroff, fire investigations supervisor with the Office of the Fire Marshal. That process typically includes looking at fire patterns, smoke accumulation, and gathering information from those who witnessed the fire such as the first responding fire crews.

When firefighters from the Highlands East Fire Department responded at about 4:40 a.m. Oct. 15, the fire had already progressed significantly, he said, praising the department’s efforts. Haliburton Highlands OPP and Haliburton County Paramedic Services also responded to the call. 

It is anticipated investigators will be on the scene for the remainder of the day.

Fire Safety Recommendations

Derstroff said it is important that everyone reviews their fire safety plans and as winter approaches, there are specific precautions that should be taken. 

Create a home escape plan, review it with all family members and then practice it. Establish a meeting place outside of the house where everyone can converge and call emergency services from there.

There should be two exits from each room, he said. “Make sure you get out of the house as quickly as possible. Don’t worry about pets or toys or valuables or anything like that,” he said.

Smoke alarms should be tested each month and replaced after 10 years. 

In the winter, take the screens off your windows to make it easier to get out and test that the windows open easily, as cold temperatures can tighten them. 

If you have a two-storey building, you will need a ladder you can use to get out. Some ladders can be purchased that will hook on windows to allow you to climb out. 

Derstroff also recommended for those who have large homes to install more smoke detectors than the law outlines. For new construction, he said, the building code requires smoke alarms inside bedrooms as well as outside sleeping areas.