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Vancouver may ban the sale of some butane lighters. Here's why that's being proposed.

A flame from a butane torch/lighter is seen in this undated image. (Credit: Shutterstock) A flame from a butane torch/lighter is seen in this undated image. (Credit: Shutterstock)

Vancouver council is set to vote on banning the sale of butane lighters that firefighters say are contributing to a "surge" of blazes causing injuries, death and damage in the city.

A staff report proposes a bylaw prohibiting the sale of "continuous flame butane lighters," which are defined as "a device that produces a flame, is fueled by butane, and does not require the ongoing intervention of the user to produce a continuous flame." Businesses found violating the bylaw would be fined $1,000.

"The serious public safety risks associated with the use of these devices in residential settings warrants consideration of a direct response by the City of Vancouver pending any national measures," the report says.

"Prohibiting the sale of continuous flame butane lighters by retailers located within Vancouver would be a measured, proactive step and begin to respond to the increased fire risk associated with these devices."

A report provided by Vancouver Fire Rescue Services says while it is impossible to measure the actual number of fires caused by these devices, they do have data showing how many fires there have been since the beginning of 2023 where "probable cause of the fire was found to support the use of an open flame or smoking material in a general sense."

There have been 3,128 fires in total, 79 people injured, and six people killed, the department says. In addition, 397 people have been displaced and an estimated $16,785,636 of property damage has been caused.

"It is clear that torch-style lighters play a major role in the contribution to fire loss and injury in the City of Vancouver," the report from VFRS concludes.

But the report also looks at why these fires are likely to be increasing as well as who is at risk – and suggests that banning the sale of these lighters is not the only move the city can or should make.

Smoking is now the most common way that people in the province consume drugs, according to data from the BC Coroners Service.

"The continuous flame butane lighter is a common tool used by people who regularly smoke opioids or stimulants," the report notes.

But harm reduction services like safe consumption sites and overdose prevention sites are set up to facilitate the injection of drugs, not smoking or inhalation.

"Providing alternative spaces for people to use for smoking and promoting safe spaces to use butane lighters could further reduce fire safety risks associated with smoker materials," the report says, summarizing some community feedback.

"It was also highlighted that the availability of harm reduction supplies for safer smoking may also address fire safety issues."

The risk of fires caused by smoking materials is particularly high in SROs, where structure fires in general, according to VFRS, are 67 times more likely than in other residences.

A letter from the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users argues that the measure being proposed by city staff won't make SROs safer and won't in and of itself do much of anything to protect vulnerable people from fires causing serious injury, death or displacement.

"VANDU does not support banning the lighters as a solution," it reads.

Council is scheduled to vote on the report on May 7. Top Stories

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