Calgary

Number, severity of Calgary fires on the rise, chief says

A rare four-alarm fire that tore through a 64-unit condo building in Inglewood Wednesday is just one of several big blazes this month in Calgary, and the sheer number and severity of the fires we're seeing is unusual, says the city's fire chief.

Steve Dongworth says we're seeing more two-alarm fires and above than he's ever seen before in his tenure

There was a huge volume of flame coming through the roof at a 64-unit condo building in Calgary's Inglewood neighbourhood early Wednesday, prompting firefighters to elevate the call to four alarms. (@KulioGillesias)

A rare four-alarm fire that tore through a 64-unit condo building in Inglewood Wednesday is just one of several big blazes this month in Calgary, and the sheer number and severity of the fires we're seeing is unusual, says the city's fire chief.

In May, apart from the Inglewood blaze that affected 200 people, the bigger fires include:

Chief Steve Dongworth of the Calgary Fire Department (CFD) says the increasing number of fires seen lately is abnormal.

"I can't remember a time recently where we've had that many within three weeks or a month," Dongworth told the Calgary Eyeopener.

Calgary fire Chief Steve Dongworth says improper disposal of cigarette butts are the cause of many recent fires in Calgary. (CBC)

Expecting to see increase in calls this year

Dongworth says not only are we seeing an increase in the number of fires, but also the severity, with more two-alarm fires and above than what's typical.

But what exactly is the difference between a two-alarm fire and a four-alarm fire?

"For any kind of structural fire event, we send a first alarm, which is usually two engines and a ladder truck and a rescue truck, as well as a supervisor," he said. "The second alarm you double that, and the third alarm you triple that, pretty much, and fourth is a lot of assets." 

Last year, the fire department reported a 10 per cent increase in calls year over year, and Dongworth says it's a pattern he expects to see again this year. 

"We're seeing a very similar trend this year to date," he said.

Several suites on the top floor of the Pearce Gardens complex were gutted by fire early Wednesday. (@KulioGillesias)

The chief says that with the increased workload, he's proud of the way the crews have been able to knock down blaze after blaze — Wednesday's fire being no exception.

"Within about six minutes we had the first crews on scene, and from then they instantly called a second alarm, quickly went to third and then fourth as more resources were required," he said.

Trend of careless smokers causing fires

And, although there is an increase, the chief says the cause of the fires isn't something new. 

"From our preliminary investigation results of fires, not including the Inglewood fire, we've seen a bit of a trend of Calgarians not being careful disposing of smoking materials," he said. 

"So, putting a cigarette butt in a planter of peat moss, and we know that never turns out well if it's on your deck or right against your house."

He says the department is renewing its request that Calgarians to be more careful with that, by disposing of butts in safer containers, such as a coffee can.



With files from the Calgary Eyeopener. 

About the Author

Lucie Edwardson

Journalist

Lucie Edwardson is a reporter with CBC Calgary, currently focused on bringing you stories related to education in Alberta. In 2018 she headed a pop-up bureau in Lethbridge, Alta,. Her experience includes newspaper, online, TV and radio. Follow her on Twitter @LucieEdwardson