GRAVENHURST — Fire officials are reporting more than $900 in fines against three individuals on Friday February 7, after a fire inspector discovered an exit door at a Bethune road north business in Gravenhurst had been purposefully nailed shut.

Gravenhurst fire officials ordered that a Bethune road business exit nailed shut be opened and fined three people a total of $900.

The Gravenhurst Fire Department (GFD) says in a release today that a town building department inspector alerted GFD and fire officials ordered the door to be repaired.

While the repairs were made, fines have been issued to the owner of the building and to the business operator renting the building space.

GFD says fire code convictions can now result in fines of up to $50,000 for individuals, and in the case of repeated offences, for up to $100,000.

“Exit doorways in public settings are absolutely critical elements of community safety,” said Fire Chief Larry Brassard.

“The idea of an exit door being intentionally nailed shut flies in the face of common sense,” he said. “It is a gross and blatant violation of the fire code in Ontario.”

Blocked or inoperable exits have led to countless deaths in times of emergency across North America, adds the release.

The fire department urges all owners to be especially vigilant this time of year about keeping exits clear as snow can easily prevent an exit door from opening properly.

It adds that property owners are ultimately responsible for the condition of their buildings and in this case, the operators of the business and the property’s legal owner were cited. “It’s important for anyone who exercises control over any property to understand that they are classified as owners under the law, and that they can be held liable even though their name might not be on the official title to the property,” said Brassard.

“While we prefer to take an educational approach to these issues initially, anyone who doubts our resolve to address these kinds of critical safety issues in Gravenhurst would be well advised to reconsider their position. Our staff are committed to ensuring our community is as fire safe as possible, and increasingly enforcement is becoming a necessary aspect of this process.”