Abandoned buildings pose safety risk to firefighters and public, fire chief says
Greg Hankkio made the comments in the wake of a major fire last Sunday at the former Odd Fellows Hall
Thunder Bay's acting fire chief says derelict buildings in the city are a risk to crews and to people who may take shelter in them.
Greg Hankkio made the comments in the wake of a major fire last Sunday at the former Odd Fellows Hall.
Because the structures are abandoned, they are often fully engulfed in flames before an alarm is called in, Hankkio said.
Fighting the fires, he added, can be dangerous for crews entering the buildings.
"In a lot of cases, we may not know what is or has gone on inside of the building," he said, citing holes in the floor as one possible unexpected hazard.
There is also a danger to the public, he added.
"Unfortunately we may have people who are trying to get out of the elements and find some place to keep warm and use a vacant or abandoned building for shelter," he said.
Crews have no idea if anyone is in the burning buildings when they arrive, he said. The officer arriving on the scene of a fire has to determine if it is survivable based on the conditions.
"If we have an indication that there are people in the building then, you know, in those cases that's where we assume the risk, and we will enter the structure and conduct a search for people in the building," Hankkio said. "It's really an assessment when you arrive on the scene as to how you attack the fire and whether you conduct rescue operations."
Asked if he feels more should be done to reduce the number of vacant buildings in the city, Hankkio said it would be difficult with the city's current resources to try to order owners to demolish them or to closely monitor the structures.
The fire department works with the city's building division and bylaw enforcement division to identify vacant and abandoned buildings, he said.
It regularly checks on them to make sure they're boarded up and inaccessible.