Centre For Local Research into Public Space (CELOS)

See also Site Map

Citizen-Z Cavan Young's 2004 film about the zamboni crisis





Freedom of Information

Note: although the FIPPA legislation requires a response within 30 days, the City of Toronto Corporate Access Division is understaffed and they cannot necessarily meet the timeline, even for simple questions.

March 21, 2019

Records Requested: Please provide all correspondence, all emails and related communications, all memoranda, all relevant sections of minutes of meetings, and all individual staff notes relating to the Fire Prevention office's decision to require a minimum 1-metre right-of-way walkway between houses, for property owners who wish to build a laneway house or add a legal secondary suite with a side door, in the Toronto/East York (TEY) section of the city. Please also provide all reports and relevant fire incident analyses that the Fire Prevention office used to make the 1-meter fire access requirement.
City Division (optional): Fire Services

April 12, 2019, email from Kerry-Ann Sween,

Corporate Access (FOI)

Subject: FOI Request # 2019-00618 (Re 1 Metre fire access requirement

Hello Ms. Mason:

I am writing with respect to the above noted request.

Through consultation with Toronto Fire Services staff on this request, it has become apparent that responding to this request as it could require a substantial amount of time and resources. Not to mention potential costs in the form of search fees …etc.

Specifically, staff have advised as follows:

· The records search time period is over 8 years. To obtain copies of all correspondence, emails and related communications, memoranda, meeting minutes, etc. would require a search of various communication mediums as well as a multitude of varying employees, past and present.

· Once received, the files would have to be reviewed for specific reference to the details of this FOI request.

· The staffing resources required to complete such a comprehensive search would require between 50 to 100 staff hours to complete. Additional hours may be required depending on any challenges arising during the search and compilation of the requested information.

· Based on the challenges of locating all requested information (records retention, multiple parties) the Division will require a minimum six (6) months to locate all requested information

Please note, any time frames listed above are preliminary estimates only.

In addition, staff have advised that Other City Divisions (eg. City Planning and Toronto Building) would need to be involved in this request as it was a collaborative effort and Toronto Fire Services was not the only contributor in the decision process.

Alternatively, Toronto Fire Services could prepare a document that will clarify and support the rationale for the minimum of one (1) metre wide access from the municipal street for laneway housing. You may also wish to get in touch directly with Toronto Fire Services staff directly for more information. If so, please advise and I will provide the name and contact information.

With the details outlined above in mind, please advise on how you would like to proceed with your request.

1) Proceed with the City providing you with a formal search fee est. (this will be quite extensive, and include hours from Toronto Building and City Planning once they have been canvassed).

2) Receive the document being prepared by Toronto Fire Services staff regarding this issue and/or contact TFS staff directly for more information.

April 12, 2019 email from Jutta Mason to Kerry-Ann Sween

Dear Ms. Sween,
Thank you for your response. Please ask Fire Services to prepare their best estimate of what they have to search and how much it would cost.

Perhaps CELOS could put out a call for crowd funding to pay for this, in partnership with other interested groups, perhaps with some help from media. Alternatively, I may decide to write to the appropriate city council committee chair(s) or the mayor and ask her/him if they are willing to direct Fire Services to work with City Planning and Building to make a detailed report on the matter.

Re contacting them directly: In January I went to see Fire Prevention Chief Doug Babcock and afterwards asked him for a more specific detailing of his reasoning, but he merely suggested I contact an architect. So that avenue did not work.

CELOS is researching the issue on behalf of "grannies" like myself and others who want to stay in our neighbourhoods. Accessible housing and the AODA are also at issue. The problem is serious: on our block near Dufferin and Bloor there are 54 lots and only 2 of them are eligible for a laneway house building permit, despite the new bylaw.

I look forward to receiving the detailed cost estimate, thank you.

April 12, 2019, from: Kerry-Ann Sween

Hello Ms. Mason:

Thank you for getting back to me. I will certain pursue putting together a search fee estimate for all program areas once I have all of the required information of that is how you wish to proceed.

However, in the meantime, may I suggest that you contact Derek Collins whose contact information is outlined below. He may be able to provide you with more information regarding this matter:

Derek Collins, Division Chief, Fire Prevention Division, Toronto Fire Services, 4330 Dufferin Street, Toronto, ON M3H 5R9,(416) 392-1713, derek.collins@toronto.ca

I wrote to the chief but for a long time there was no answer, some back and forth with Ms.Sween and the chief, then late in the evening of May 7, again an offer to connect from Chief Collins.

May 8, 2019, email to Fire Services Division Chief Derek Collins

From: Jutta Mason <juttamason@gmail.com>

Subject: Issues for FOI/discussion/resolution

To: Derek Collins <Derek.Collins@toronto.ca>

Dear Chief Collins,

this is the outline I said I would send you, for discussion on Friday if sometime between 9.30 and noon or after 4 works for you, let me know:

1. SPACE between houses

The fire prevention chief (Doug Babcock) said:
-- for a laneway house permit, there must be a minimum 1 meter (or 900 cm?) space between the houses, on the property
- if there is a garage fire, firefighters will go through the house if nec. to reach the garage
-- house doors are 84 cm. wide
-- but firefighters can't go through the house if there's a laneway suite because if there's damage to the main house in transit, there will be claims against the city
-- FOI says they have no records of such claims (so now I've asked FOI for records of ALL claims for house damage by fire services)
-- this is a problem specifically for older districts -- it looks like extra fire access space was provided every two semis -- what was formerly accepted is not acceptable now


-- Fire chief says laneways don't count as emergency access because they're not roads
-- "Laneway Project" head says fire chief told them that no obstructions are allowed because laneways are for emergency access
-- only properties on laneways are eligible for laneway permit
-- Fire chief says there may be cars parked in the laneways, blocking emergency access
-- acknowledges that the same is often true on narrow city streets, but "that's different"

3. MATERIALS -- a laneway house is small and built according to the new OBC -- good wiring and low combustible -- inspected

4. INTENT OF LAW the advantage of "granny flats" vs. the disadvantage of claims against the city

5. LOCAL COOPERATION fire services ought to work with individual neighbourhoods to address the issues: start with "fire drills"

Link for garage fires, from Open Data: http://www.celos.ca/wiki/wiki.php?n=Neighbourhoods.GarageFires

Note: the conversation took place, with an undertaking to follow up with a specific request for Fire services to hold a "fire drill" on one block of Havelock St., to check what kinds of blocks might exist.

But there was no follow up, despite several requests. Apparently Chief Collins was moved to a different job.


other requests

March 21, 2019

*Records Requested*: Please provide all claim numbers, thumbnail descriptions of circumstances, and settlement amounts against Fire Services and/or the City of Toronto, for fire incidents where firefighters accessed a behind-the-house or behind-a-neighboring-house garage or adjacent fire by going through a main house, and a damage claim was filed for damage to the house. Please specify when the claimant was an insurance company and when s/he was the home-owner. I would like this information from 2011 to the most recent data available.
City Division (optional): Fire Services?
Date From (optional): 01-Jan-2011

May 1, 2019 response:

Insurance and Risk management have advised that despite a thorough search, they were unable to locate any responsive records. Access therefore, cannot be granted as the records do not exist.

Please note that we do not track the level of detail requested.

May 2, 2019

Records requested: Please provide all claim numbers, thumbnail descriptions of circumstances, and settlement amounts against Fire Services and/or the City of Toronto, for fire incidents claiming damage to property by Fire Services staff. Please include when the claimant was an insurance company and when s/he was the home-owner. I would like this information from 2011 to the most recent data available.

City Division (optional): Fire Services? Or Risk Management?

Date From (optional): 01-Jan-2011

Date To (optional): 01-Feb-2019

FOI request #2019 - 00951.

Response: FOI details

Summary of response:

Number of insurance claims against Fire Services for property damage during fire and medical calls, 2011 to 2018 (Freedom of Information -- FOI): 44.
Number that are listed as $0 payout: 22.
Total cost of claims: $42,164.

Dec.13, 2019

Records Requested: Please send me an electronic copy of a "memorandum of understanding" between Toronto Buildings and Toronto Fire regarding Laneway houses. This agreement was specifically referenced by a Fire Protection staff at the Dec.12 2019 Building Code Commission hearing. The Fire staff said that I need to go through FOI to get a copy.

Jan.15, 2020

The MOU was released through Freedom of Information. The document comes in two versions, dated Oct.2, 2017 and revised on October 31, 2019: here

Dec.14, 2019

Records Requested*: Please send me, electronically, any reports and relevant fire incident analyses that the Fire Prevention office used to make the 1-meter (distance between houses) fire access requirement.
City Division (optional): Fire Services

January 22, 2020:

Response (2019 -- 02704) arrived, in paper form. My question had been restated as:

You have requested access to an electronic copy of any documentation that would support the Memo of Understanding between Toronto Fire and Toronto Building, whenever that was drafted for the Laneway bylaw passed in August 2018.

January 23, 2020:

Two amails sent to FOI (Thelia-Lee.Cole@toronto.ca) (1) asking for an electronic copy and (2) asking why my question had been restated.

January 24, 2020

Called Ms.Cole and found out that the response was unintentionally not to my question. She said that and the original question (looking for actual data) will now be resubmitted to Fire Services.

This request was problematic because it was misunderstood. See follow-up correspondence

Dec.14, 2019

Records Requested Please send me (electronically) (1) the number of laneway house building permits issued by Toronto Buildings between the passage of the laneway house bylaw and the present AND (2) the number of laneway house permit applications currently in the queue.
City Division (optional): Toronto Buildings

Jan. 30, 2020

Response (dated Jan.24, 2020):
1. 33 permits issued between Aug.1, 2018 and Dec.20, 2019
2. 11 permits issuance pending as of December 20, 2019

Back to front page

Content last modified on February 11, 2020, at 04:05 PM EST