Toronto Fire to conduct ‘inspection blitz’ of city escape rooms after Christmas Day fire
Toronto Fire Services will be conducting an “inspection blitz” of escape rooms across the city after a fire erupted in an establishment on Yonge Street on Christmas Day.
In an escape room, players enter a seemingly locked or sealed area and have to try to find their way out by solving a series of puzzles, before time runs out.
According to Deputy Fire Chief Jim Jessop, escape rooms are not licensed and are not required under the Ontario Fire Code to be inspected annually. But, given a deadly incident in Poland and a fire in a local escape room on Christmas Day, Jessop said the service is going to be more proactive.
“The city will be going out and inspecting all of the escape rooms we can find, making sure they are safe and making sure, from our perspective, that they’re up to the fire code,” he told CTV News Toronto.
“The fire code is very clear – exit doors cannot be locked, they cannot require special knowledge to open, and if we find issues where there are keypads or electronic locking devices in these escape rooms and there are no approved alternatives, we will be taking immediate action to protect the public.”
About a week ago, five teenagers who were celebrating a birthday were killed in a fire that erupted inside a locked escape room in Poland.
Josh Sanger, the manager at Captive Escape Rooms in Toronto, said that the incident caused the company to step back and reevaluate their rooms.
“We definitely did discuss it,” he said. “We always work with the fire department here. They come in every once and a while to check up. We talk with them as to how we could make this place more safer, more accessible for people.”
On Dec. 25, a fire broke out at the Roundabout, an escape room located near Yonge and Gould streets in downtown Toronto.
No one was injured in the fire, but Jessop said that the damage was estimated to be in the “several thousands.”
Jessop said that the service had visited the escape room previously and noticed a violation of the fire code.
“There were electronic locks on doors. Our staff ordered them removed and the owner did comply immediately,” he said. “So fortunately, when the fire occurred, that one potential issue had been resolved.”
The incident prompted Toronto Fire Services to identify what Jessop calls “potential challenges” in dealing with escape rooms, which may all have unique configurations.
Sanger said that Captive Escape Rooms will never lock their customers inside a room. They also don’t use wiring or levers in their rooms, employing more traditional problem solving methods, which escape rooms were founded on.
“That’s a huge thing that we like to tell groups when they come in,” he said. “We pride ourselves on (a) lack of mechanics, lack of electronics in the room.”
There are fire extinguishers accessible throughout the venue, Sanger said, and staff ensures there is a button customers can press inside the room if they feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
“Our main focus is making sure the customer, when they come in, they have the most fun here and that requires them to be comfortable.”
Jessop noted that lighting, exit doors, interior alterations and the use of combustible materials in escape rooms pose challenges for firefighters.
“This type of occupancy, the fire code was never designed to look at this. There are certain aspects of the fire code that apply, but again, as the new economy evolves, sometimes legislation lags behind,” he said.
Part of the review will also explore how to ensure firefighters are able to safely enter the rooms, which Jessop said all have “have different configurations and maybe some alterations in the building.”
The review is a joint initiative with Toronto Municipal Licensing and Standards.