July 24, 2014 2:02 pm

Smokers caused 700 Edmonton fires over past decade: Edmonton Fire

Watch above: The South Hamptons fire was sparked by an improperly disposed cigarette. It’s a cause fire officials say is happening far too often. Kendra Slugoski reports.

EDMONTON – Edmonton Fire Rescue is calling on smokers to be more careful with how they butt out.

According to the department’s statistics, smoking material has been the cause of 700 fires and $50 million in damage in Edmonton over the past 10 years.

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So far in 2014, there have been 52 fires, resulting in $11.5 million in damage which is already higher than any of the previous 10 years.

READ MORE: West end condo blaze causes $10M in damages

Fires caused by smoking material have also resulted in seven deaths and 45 injuries during that period.

“I’m not sure why there’s such a lack of awareness. When if you look back at the last number of years, we continue to have these significant condominium fires and residential fires,” says Fire Chief Ken Block, Edmonton Fire Rescue Services.

Edmonton fires caused by smoking material:

  • 2014: 52 fires, $11.5 million in damage and 2 injuries
  • 2013: 79 fires, $4.2 million in damage and 6 injuries
  • 2012: 72 fires, $8 million in damage and 2 injuries
  • 2011: 88 fires, $7.5 million in damage and 3 injuries
  • 2010: 54 fires, $5.1 million in damage and 3 injuries and 1 death
  • 2009: 65 fires, $2.3 million in damage and 5 injuries and 4 deaths
  • 2008: 67 fires, $2.2 million in damage and 5 injuries
  • 2007: 51 fires, $2.5 million in damage and 2 injuries and 1 death
  • 2006: 67 fires, $3.7 million in damage and 8 injuries
  • 2005: 61 fires, $1 million in damage and 4 injuries
  • 2004: 61 fires, $1.5 million in damage and 1 injuries and 1 death

This year’s statistics include Monday’s fire at the South Hamptons condo, which resulted in about one-third of the units being destroyed or severely damaged. Investigators have determined the blaze was caused by a cigarette in a plant pot.

READ MORE: Improperly disposed of cigarette likely cause of Edmonton condo fire

Fire experts say people trying to extinguish smoking material in pot planters is a growing problem.

“Peat and organic materials in these plants as well as the fillers – which are styrofoam – are extremely flamable. Most people obviously don’t understand that concept,” says Fire Marshall Tom Karpa.

“Organic material starts to smolder and even after the cigarette extinguishes itself that fire in the planter continues to smolder and typically it’s several hours after the cigarette was extinguished where an open flame occurs,” explains Block.

Fire experts recommend putting out smokers material in sand, water, metal container, or ash tray.

WATCH: Edmonton Fire Chief Ken Block speaks about fires caused by smoking materials

Another issue for Edmonton’s fire chief is the Alberta Fire Code. Despite changes to the code in recent years, Block wants further improvements, particularly when it comes to condo buildings.

“Typically the fire extends up the exterior wall through a ventilated wall into an unprotected void or attic space, and the building burns down from the outside in, and it doesn’t take long,” says Block.

Block is concerned about further consequences if changes aren’t made to the code and the way people handle smoking material.

“What’s it going to take? Is it going to take a funeral? A multiple fatality in these events? And, you know, I must say it’s only a matter of time before that happens.”

© Shaw Media, 2014

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