B.C. fire-related fatalities on the rise in 2020, says province
There have been 15 deaths since January, compared to 5 for the same period in 2019
Fire officials are asking people in B.C. to test smoke alarms and take care in the kitchen as 15 people have died in the province so far this year due to fires — three times the number of deaths for the same time period in 2019.
"My thoughts go out to the families and communities impacted by these tragic deaths," Jennifer Rice, parliamentary secretary for emergency preparedness, said in a release.
Jonathan Gormick, the public information officer for the Vancouver Fire and Rescue Service, said he is not surprised there have been more fatalities. He said the rise can be connected to more people at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"There's probably more distractions around the home as parents try to cope with homeschooling kids or working from home," he said. "They may start to cook a meal and then get distracted by work or schooling or any number of those things and that's when fires occur."
Gormick said in Vancouver, firefighters have dealt with a 17 per cent increase in calls for indoor fires and a 20 per cent increase in outdoor fires over the past eight weeks.
He said no one has died in relation to the fires in Vancouver, but four people have been seriously injured.
"They are going to suffer life-long injuries from those burns," he said.
Gormick said many of the outdoor fires have been started in piles of garbage or debris that have piled up around some businesses or commercial spaces that are closed. Many of those fires are being investigated as arson, he said.
"Some individuals see it as an opportunity to start a fire, even though it's not their intent to have it spread to the building," he said.
Meanwhile, the province wants people to make sure that homes have working smoke alarms and develop home escape plans. Gormick said research shows a direct link to having working smoke alarms and surviving a house fire.
"Really, they are going to make a life or death difference in a fire for you and your family," he said.
With us spending more time indoors fire safety is more important than ever - please take a moment to check your smoke alarms are working <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/presstotest?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#presstotest</a> <a href="https://t.co/PQLUt4uykN">pic.twitter.com/PQLUt4uykN</a>—@SurreyFRS
Although on hold due to the pandemic, Vancouver also offers an inexpensive fire extinguisher training program to teach people how to safely store and use a fire extinguisher.
"The number of small fires that could have been kept small and extinguished before they got big would be huge if more people had fire extinguishers and the training on how to use [them]," Gormick said.
He said the program will be offered again once physical distancing restrictions are lifted.
On average, Vancouver has four deaths and 49 injuries related to fires each year.
Fires in homes can be caused by unattended cooking, burning candles, unextinguished cigarettes or faulty electrical equipment.
Reid Jr. setting an example with a timely 2 for 1 safety message!<br><br>1. Check your smoke & CO alarms today - replace batteries as needed!<br><br>2. To help prevent spread of <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#COVID19</a>, flu & colds, wash hands regularly. He says recite the ABC’s to ensure you washed long enough.<a href="https://twitter.com/vfrs?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@VFRS</a> <a href="https://t.co/40y4ZfChfR">pic.twitter.com/40y4ZfChfR</a>—@FireChiefReid