Report Re: - Falcon Inn Fire of
To the Hon. L.E. Blackwell, K.C., M.P.P.
Re: Falcon Inn Fire
1. In accordance with your instructions and at the request of the Township Council of Scarborough by resolution dated October 13, 1943, following a letter of complaint from Lt.-Col.Eric Acland charging inefficiency and inadequacy of the Scarborough fire brigade, I held a public inquiry on October 28 and 29, 1943, into the fire which occurred in the Falcon Inn in the Township of Scarborough on September 25, 1943. At this inquiry evidence was heard from 41 witnesses, which included all the persons suggested by any of the 'parties and also a number of technical experts. Mr. E.H.Silk, K.C., of the Attorney-Generals department, acted, as counsel, while Mr. H.E. Beckett appeared for the Township of 'Scarborough, and Lt.-Col. Eric Acland represented his mother, .Mrs. Alice Acland, owner of the premises.
The Scarborough fire brigade; is maintained by a small section in the
south-west corner of the township known as the "Fire Area" and which
has an area of 6.3 square miles and an assessment of $7,276,331. The by-law establishing
the Fire Area was passed in 1923, providing for a capital cost of $25,000, and,
maintenance at a yearly cost which for 1943 is $20,690.72. The strength of the
fire brigade is eight full time firemen and the fire chief, and their fire
apparatus consists of a 1925 Gotfredson fire pumper rated at 315 gpm at
1201bs., and a 1930
balance of the township is 64 miles in area, and has an assessment of
$4,338,169. To provide fire protection for this part of the township outside of
the. Fire Area, and without hydrant service and very few natural water
supplies, there is an agreement between the council and the Fire Area that the
The evidence of various witnesses indicated that the fire in the Falcon Inn on
The letter of complaint dated
A summary of the charges and my findings on each are as follows:
there was considerable variance in times given by witnesses, most of the times being
from estimates rather than from clocks, I must accept that evidence of Miss
Bessie Reesor, Bell telephone operator, who took the toll charge call made by
Mrs Alice Acland and in turn telephoned the fire brigade. According to her records this call was made
at It was responded to by
Fire Lieutenant James Barnard and two firemen with the small
Allowing at least 7 minutes for Barnard's actions as above, therefore the first fire truck arrived at the scene somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes from the time the alarm was given. The views expressed by a number of witnesses that the time was much longer is understandable in that time at a fire awaiting the fire apparatus always seems much longer than it actually is. I, therefore, am of the opinion that the first fire truck responded promptly to the fire alarm and arrived without undue delay.
(b) That the first fire apparatus to arrive was passed twice on route by the Grey Coach bus.
evidence given by Hamlet Davis, driver for the Grey Coach Lines, which I
accepted was that shortly after 2 p.m. he saw a fire truck turn of Birchmount
Rd, on which the Scarborough fire hall is situated, and turned east on No. 5
Highway. In the aproximately20 minutes he took to make the run to the Falcon
Inn, including 10 stops for passengers, Davis stated he passed the fire truck
three times. Again accepting the times given by the telephone operator, this
was the second fire truck to respond,
the 1925 Gotfredson, which was driven by Fire Lieut. William Crates, and manned
by one fireman, both of whom were called backed from off duty to answer the
second alarm placed by Lieut. Barnard. This is confirmed by the denial of the
crew of the
(c) That the driver and the fireman on this truck were laughing and talking instead of hurrying to the fire.
No evidence was given at the inquiry as to any improper conduct on the part of the firemen on either truck. Accepting the viewpoint that the truck in question in this charge was the second truck to arrive, the 1925Gotfredson, the evidence indicates it was traveling at its near maximum average speed of about 35 m.p.h For a fire truck on an open 4-lane highway, this is cannot be called “hurrying” but the low speed is accounted for by the fact that this apparatus is 18 years old and according to Fire Chief T.H. Love was purposely geared low to answer calls within the Fire Area only where the roads were not good at the time of this truck’s purchase in 1924. Therefore I can find no fault with the firemen on this second truck who were apparently driving at the limit of speed if which their fire truck was capable.
(d) That no real attempt to master the fire was made by the firemen, including that no hole was cut in the roof to get at the fire.
The many complaints as to the methods used or not
used infighting the fire, which are
summarized in this charge, were made by persons who are not experts in fire
fighting. The evidence was clear thaton arrival of the first truck there was
already a hole in the roof, so it was not necessary to cut another hole.
Fireman Richard Dalby went to this hole in the roof with a hose line
immediately on arrival. The undisputed evidence of Lieut. Barnard, who has 16
years’ fire fighting experience, was that on his first entry to the
(e) That one of the two firemen who first arrived left the scene to telephone for the second fire apparatus.
Lieut. Barnard, in charge of the first truck, manned by himself and two firemen, made this telephone call. Having regard to the fact that his fire truck was equipped with only a 100 gpm pump serving two lines of ¾ inch hose, which was agreed by all expert witnesses to be entirely inadequate to fight a fire of this size, and further that the service of a second truck was not within the agreement for the fire protection of the rural part of the Township, and its dispatch would leave the Fire area without protection, I cannot criticize Lieut. Barnard for his decision to personally telephone back to the fire hall for assistance.
(f) That this second truck did not arrive until about
Again accepting the evidence of the Grey Coach Bus driver, this second truck arrived shortly before . Accepting the telephone operator’s time of when it was called this second truck made the run at somewhere near the maximum speed of which it was capable.
(g) That the second fire truck was unable to pump from the well next door and could only use a small rain water tank.
The evidence was that there was some difficulty in getting the Gotfredson pump to start operating from the well next door – confirmed by the later tests by experts that this pump would not operate from draft without priming – but water from the well was used except for a small amount kept as a reserve. Less than 2,000 gallons were available from these sources.
(h) That the Fire Chief improperly did not utilize the two cisterns and the stream at the rear of the Falcon Inn Property.
These two cisterns contained about 2,000 gallons of
water, according to engineers from the Ontario Department of Highways, but the
stream was much too shallow and had to small a flow to be utilized by a fire pumper unless a dam or sump were
constructed and a considerable time allowed for this to fill up. All the
evidence showed that the small
While this is quite different from th1925 fire truck weighing about 5 tons and with a higher center of balance, and single tire wheels, I am of the opinion the Gotfredsonfire truck could have been driven down to these cisterns and could have been pulled out with the assistance that was available. Chief Hurd gave his opinion that he would not have ordered a fire truck to these cisterns and that a supply of 2,000 gallons of water, sufficient for less than seven minutes operation by this pumper, would have made no difference to the fire at this stage. For these reasons I am of the opinion that the Fire Chief should not be censured for using these cisterns and streams.
(i) That the Fire Chief improperly did not utilize the large pond about 300 feet east along the highway.
This pond is 690 ft. from the
(j) That laxity and delay were shown in cutting off the electric current in the premises.
In this I accept the evidence of George Welsh of the Scarborough Hydro that he got a call to come to the Falcon Inn about and got there within half an hour and cut the wires. No evidence was given of any damage or injury having resulted from the wires not being out earlier and I can find no laxity nor unreasonable delay.
(k) That the fire protection
for that part of the
The agreement with the Township is for the supply of the
(l) That generally the Scarborough Fire Department showed lack of initiative and ability in fighting the Falcon Inn fire.
Undoubtedly the citizens of the Falcon Inn district showed
much initiative and energy in fighting the fire before the arrival of the fire
brigade, in organizing a bucket brigade to keep the small pumper in operation,
and rescuing the bulk of the furniture from the burning building. Their
strongly expresses disappointment in the fire brigade being unable to control
the fire is understandable. Some more water for fire fighting could have been
utilized from the cisterns at the rear. Possibly the large pond could have been
reached and certainly some water could have been obtained from it by using a
barrel , kept full by the bucket brigade, part way up the bank to the roadway.
If Mrs. Acland had dammed up the creek at the rear of the
If the Fire Area Gotfredson truck had been outfitted with
50 feet of suction hose instead of 20 feet this pumper could have drafted water
from the large pond from the highway. If the township council had followed the
recommendation of the Fire Marshal’s office made by letter dated January7 1942,
to survey all emergency water supplies and construct roadways and pumping
stands to these, the large pond would have been readily available to any fire
truck. If the Township council had followed the recommendations the Canadian
If there had been more men to pull down the plaster on the
inner walls of the building and more and larger hose available to fight the
fire in several places at the same time, the results would no doubt have been
different. If the township had an agreement for aid from the City of
Question – Is it your view that with the equipment and men available and in the circumstances, the Falcon Inn could have been saved if proper judgement had been exercised when the fire department first arrived?
Answer – I don’t think so.
While the fire brigade could have shown more activity at the fire which would have had a much better appearance to the assembled public, it is most doubtful whether this would have had any material effect on the result as most the effective measures that could have been taken were ones that must be mad ei advance and not during a fire.
Therefore, I am of the opinion the fire brigade showed reasonable initiative and ability in fighting this fire.
(m) That the equipment of the Scarborough Fire Brigade is antiquated and not reliable.
There is no serious criticism of the 1930
(g) Summarizing the above, I am of the opinion that the
weight of evidence is that there was no culpable negligence or in-efficiency on
the part of the Scarborough Fire Brigade or the Fire Chief. On the other hand,
the complaints made by Lt. Col. Acland have rendered a distinct public service
in bringing to the attention of the
citizens of the fire district and of all Scarborough Township, the inadequacy
of the agreement for the fire protection
of that part of the township outside the Fire Area, the necessity for providing
emergency water supplies for rural fire fighting, with the co-operation of the
public who want their properties protected, and the serious deficiencies in the
manpower and apparatus in the Scarborough Fire Brigade. These are all matters
under the control of the
All of which is respectfully submitted,
Fire Marshal’s Office