A professional firefighter for 34 years, John Gignac advocated for smoke detectors in every home.
Now retired, Gignac is making it his mission to see that every home, by law, is required to have a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm after tragedy struck his family.
Gignac, from Brantford, Ont., lost his beloved niece, Laurie Hawkins, her husband and their two young children in 2008 after the four died as a result of CO backing up from a gas fireplace in their home in Woodstock, 45 miles from Uncle John in Brantford.
They did not have a carbon monoxide alarm.
“We were very close,” said Gignac of his niece who lived with her uncle while she attended university.
“With fire, you can see it, smell it and feel the heat. Carbon monoxide is the silent killer. There is no smell, no feel and you can’t see it.”
Gignac was in Vernon recently to share his story at the Fire Prevention Officers of B.C. annual seminar at The Prestige Hotel.
He was the catalyst behind the creation of the Hawkins-Gignac Foundation, which strives to make it law across the country to make CO alarms mandatory in homes.
Ontario and the Yukon are the only province and territory to put the law into effect.
“We’re starting to gain momentum,” said Gignac of his push. “Hopefully in the next two years, we can get it done. Our goal is to protect all Canadians.”
The foundation, which honours his niece and her family, promotes carbon monoxide education and raises funds to purchase CO alarms to be given to at-risk families by fire departments nationwide.
“My family’s tragedy could have been prevented,” said Gignac. “Please, protect your family by installing CO alarms. Warn friends and relatives too. Don’t let the silent killer take from your family, what it took from ours.”
More on Gignac’s story and information can be found on the foundation’s website, www.endthesilence.ca.
You can also make a donation through the website to help purchase alarms for families or individuals who can’t afford them.