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Vancouver firefighters have battled 31% more blazes so far in 2023 than same period last year: officials

Vancouver Fire Rescue Service revealed Wednesday that the city has recorded more fires in the first half of 2023 than ever before in the same period.

Compared to the initial six months of 2022, VFRS says there’s been a 31 per cent increase in the number of fire incidents in Vancouver this year.

The majority of fires—57 per cent—have been linked to discarded smokers’ materials, according to officials.

These items include matches, lighters, torches, candles, cigarettes and materials related to drug use.

“We urgently appeal to everyone in the community to exercise extreme caution while handling and disposing of these materials. A small oversight can lead to catastrophic consequences,” reads the VFRS statement.

Out of the four fire fatalities recorded in Vancouver this year, officials say three have involved smokers’ materials and two victims were believed to be impaired by substances.

VFRS says the deaths highlight the risks of handling fire-related items while using substances—either with others or alone.

Other concerning trends fire officials have noticed is a rise in structure fires, including ones involving single-room occupancy (SRO) buildings and outdoor blazes.

VFRS says there’s been a 42.3 per cent spike in outdoor fires in the first two quarters of 2023 compared to the same time last year, however, the number of tent fires has “significantly decreased.”

The number of arson cases recorded so far in 2023 is also raising concerns.

To date, 26 per cent of fire incidents this year have been caused deliberately, according to VFRS.

The Vancouver Police Department is working to identify and address “the root causes of such acts,” the statement details.

Prioritizing fire safety is both simple and necessary, VFRS says.

“Simple actions like properly extinguishing cigarettes, using battery lights instead of candles and keeping flammable items away from ignition sources can make a significant difference in preventing fires,” reads the statement.

Officials are urging everyone to report suspicious activities or potential fire hazards right away, as flames can spread quickly during dry conditions.

Additionally, VFRS is imploring people to ensure they have a working smoke alarm—something that’s required in all residential units. Batteries in these devices should be replaced regularly, and people should get a new smoke alarm every 10 years.

Earlier this year, B.C.’s government launched a $1.6-million campaign aimed at educating people about proper smoke-alarm use and fire safety.

The public safety minister and solicitor general explained in an earlier statement that the initiative is part of the province’s response to an alarming trend of increasing fire-related deaths.

There were 86 such fatalities last year—marking a 46-per-cent annual increase—according to a report by the Office of the Fire Commissioner.

In its statement Wednesday, VFRS said it will continue to promote fire safety by implementing public awareness campaigns, educational programs and community outreach initiatives.

“We acknowledge that combating this escalating trend requires collective efforts. Collaboration between the fire service, law enforcement, community organizations, and citizens is vital to create a safer environment for all,” said VFRS. Top Stories

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