OFM Breaks Ground for New Investigative Forensic Labs & Exhibit Building

OFM Breaks Ground for New Investigative Forensic Labs & Exhibit Building

The Office of the Fire Marshal (OFM) investigates more than 600 fires a year throughout Ontario. To better manage the complexities associated with examining and testing the collected samples, the OFM has broken ground for a building that will contain two new fire investigation labs and storage exhibits.

“The Goudge inquiry made the death investigation system in Ontario, stronger and more accountable,” said Ted Wieclawek, Ontario Fire Marshal. “The new building acknowledges the recommendations of this inquiry, keeps pace with current legislation and maintains the OFM’s unique role to enhance community safety within the province’s justice system with partners like the OPP, Coroner and Centre for Forensic Sciences.”

A key component of the new building is occupational health and safety. The building will enable staff to address the decontamination of clothing, equipment and vehicles as well as the preparation of exhibit submissions. The extensive technology and design features of the facility will also enhance the exhibit handling process and maintain their integrity.

While the layout of the building is based on the forensic labs of the Ontario Provincial Police, it has been built with the specific needs of the OFM in mind. Some of the many features of the new building include:

  • Two labs, one of which will be lead-lined to allow for the unrestricted use of digital x-ray units. Ventilation in these labs and hall area will be facilitated through a HEPA filtration system. Access to the two labs will include a gown up area for entry and a gown down (or decontamination) area for exit. All labs will be equipped with natural gas, propane and compressed air outlets.
  • Commercial washer and dryer for heavy duty cleaning, such as bunker gear.
  • A commercial dishwasher for sterilization of new mason jars in preparation for exhibits. The OFM will become more aggressive in recycling mason jars and metal through the use of recycle bins instead of sending these items to a landfill.
  • A wash bay area that will allow OFM vehicles to drive into the building and offload exhibits. To facilitate this, the building will be equipped with an electric lift truck that can move items to either one of labs. This will eliminate the difficulties experienced in the past with the physical handling of heavy or awkward exhibits.
  • A 24/7 video surveillance system, in addition to a monitored sprinkler/fire suppression system to protect the integrity of evidence and data.
  • A backup power system that will operate in the event of power failure. This system will support the walk-in refrigerator meant for bio-hazard exhibits and the re-located computer servers for the OFM Midhurst office.
  • A boardroom which will seat 20 people and a kitchen which will seat six. Both can be separated if need be and used for video conference meetings. The rooms can also be used for video conferencing of exhibit examinations, which will eliminate the risks involved with persons being in the labs while such processes are happening. All exhibit exams and/or meetings will be recordable as/if needed through the audio-video system that will be incorporated into the building.

Construction on the new building was initiated in early December 2012 after the OFM awarded a building contract to York Construction, a general contractor from Vaughan. The project managers are MHPM PROJECT MANAGERS INC. and the project consultants are Pillon Architects.

OFM Fire Investigation Services lab

A picture of the new OFM Fire Investigation Services lab. The lab is located just behind the OFM’s Midhurst office. It is set to officially open in the fall of 2013.