British Columbia

Standpipe thieves putting highrise residents at serious fire risk: officials

Standpipes that deliver high-pressure water used to fight fires in highrises are being stolen and sold for scrap.

'It's akin to stealing life-jackets off a boat or seatbelts out of a car,' says fire captain

Metal thieves have cut off or tampered with the standpipe water connections at more than 60 locations in Vancouver. (VPD)

Metal thieves are putting people who work and live in Vancouver highrises at serious risk should a fire break out.

More than 60 standpipes, which deliver high-pressure water to the hoses of firefighters, have either been stolen or tampered with, according to police.

"The safety concern is immense and it's a little bit jaw dropping that these are being stolen," said Capt. Jonathan Gormick of Vancouver Fire Rescue. 

"To me, it's akin to stealing life-jackets off a boat or airbags and seatbelts out of a car."

Most of the missing standpipes were in downtown Vancouver and the Downtown Eastside. Gormick believes there are likely more that haven't yet been discovered.

An intact standpipe in downtown Vancouver. Thieves are allegedly using large cutters or grinders to steal standpipe connections that feed high-pressure water to the upper floors of highrises during a fire. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Firefighters attach hoses to the standpipes to get high volumes of pressurized water to any floor in a highrise building.

Gormick says without working standpipes, the only option is to run hose lines up through a stairwell to reach a fire.

"That may not seem like a big deal on the second or third floor, but when we start to talk about fifth, seventh or 10th, it's a huge time delay. It puts the occupants at risk and it can allow the fire to spread through the building."

Police don't have any suspects at this time but believe thieves are using large cutters or grinders to steal the standpipes before selling them for salvage at scrap yards. 

Vancouver firefighter discusses the significance of standpipe thefts

Following a rash of standpipe vandalisms, Vancouver firefighter Matthew Trudeau spoke to media to explain why they're important and the impact vandalism can have on their job. 2:00

"These components are quite heavy," said VPD Sgt. Aaron Roed. "We're working with the salvage yards to stop the sale of anything like this but they do get paid by the pound for the metal."

Gormick says it's only a matter of time before a stolen or nonfunctioning standpipe leads to serious consequences.

"It's just jaw dropping that someone would steal something that is so blatantly safety related and put members of their own community at risk," he said. 

Vancouver police are asking building residents and managers to check their standpipes and report any that are missing or have been tampered with.

They're also asking people to check security video for suspicious activity around standpipe locations.

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