Office of the Fire Marshal Failing to Protect the Public from Fire Safety Risks

For release May 9 -- The Office of the Fire Marshal’s failure to manage fire and building safety is putting the public at risk, despite repeated warnings from the Auditor General of Nova Scotia.

“The Office of the Fire Marshal is not doing enough to ensure public buildings are adequately inspected for fire hazards,” Auditor General Kim Adair says in a new audit.

The Office of the Fire Marshal is responsible for fire safety inspections of provincially owned and licensed buildings including hospitals, schools, public housing, and long-term care homes, as well as new construction and renovation building plan reviews and fire investigations with fatalities.

“Our testing focused on buildings serving vulnerable people and our audit found that forty per cent of the inspections were completed late,” says the Auditor General.

The audit found the Office of the Fire Marshal is not following inspection policy, does not have a complete listing of buildings requiring inspections, and management at the Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing is failing to oversee and monitor compliance to the Fire Safety Act.

“There are no management reviews of inspections, complaints or follow-up inspections, and there’s no way to actually ensure staff are consistently and appropriately completing inspections,” says Adair.

While the audit focus did not include municipal inspection activities, the audit did find the Office of the Fire Marshal is not meeting the legislated requirement to ensure municipal inspections are completed.

The audit includes seven recommendations, including implementing a comprehensive review of the Office of the Fire Marshal’s organizational structure, competencies, and the training expectations of management.

All of the recommendations have been accepted, and a plan is in place to implement them starting in April 2023.

It’s the third time since 2001 the Auditor General has found the Office of the Fire Marshal failing to effectively manage fire and building safety. A 2011 audit found the Office of the Fire Marshal was not doing an adequate job protecting the public from fire safety risks in buildings, and that management was not performing appropriate oversight of operations.

That’s why it’s important that all seven recommendations are addressed quickly.

“Fire safety and prevention is important to prevent and protect against the destruction, risk of injury and building damage caused by fires,” says Ms. Adair.

French news release/communiqué