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Vancouver city council to consider $110K grant for fire safety in SROs


The number of structure fires in single room occupancy buildings in Vancouver has increased dramatically in recent years, according to firefighters. A proposal coming to city council this week aims to help change that trend.

Councillors are scheduled to consider a grant application from the non-profit Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative Society at their meeting on Tuesday.

The $110,000 grant, if approved, would fund the group's "SRO Fire Safety Preparedness and Response in SROs pilot project."

Funds would be used to hire an SRO fire safety co-ordinator and develop and implement fire safety materials and training for 18 SRO buildings.

The co-ordinator would work with 18 "lead tenants" – one from each building – on organizing an annual fire drill, distributing multilingual fire safety pamphlets and creating building maps that "highlight fire risk factors, escape routes, and information on tenants with pets or additional assistance needs in the event of a fire," according to a report from city staff

The grant would also fund training sessions for lead tenants in partnership with the Vancouver Fire Rescue Service, as well as fire safety surveys for SRO residents "to collect baseline data on fire preparedness and specific supports needed in the event of a fire," the staff report reads.

City staff is recommending that councillors approve the grant.

"The pilot project will build on current city-led fire prevention and education initiatives implemented by VFRS in the SRO stock, filling a gap by reaching and educating tenants directly," the staff report reads.


Data from the VFRS included in the staff report indicates that there were 233 structure fires in SROs in 2022. That was a slight decrease from the 254 such fires seen in 2021, but still more than double the number seen back in 2016, when there were 104 SRO fires.

2022 also saw 380 "fire incidents" – defined as any VFRS response involving fire, with or without reportable fire damage – in Vancouver SROs.

Seventy per cent of these fire incidents were caused by "smoking materials and the mishandling of lighters, candles and matches," according to the staff report.

Fires in SROs accounted for 11 per cent of all fires VFRS responded to citywide in 2022, up from 7 per cent of the total in 2016.

The year's seven major SRO fires displaced more than 400 residents for at least two weeks, with many – such as those who lived in the Winters Hotel before it was destroyed by a fire in April – displaced permanently. 

The growing demands on firefighters in the Downtown Eastside are part of the reason the union representing VFRS crews recently called for the hiring of 55 more firefighters in the city. Top Stories

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