Enforcement and education as crews tackle safety concerns in Kingston’s Belle Park

In light of a fire on March 4, 2024, at the Belle Park encampment in Kingston, city crews continue to provide education on safety and fire awareness at the site. Talha Hashmani / Global News

In light of another fire that engulfed a structure at the Belle Park encampment in Kingston, the conversation is turning toward how officials can better tackle safety concerns in the area.

The blaze which had engulfed a wooden structure in the encampment on Monday was brought under control by fire crews shortly after. No injuries were reported. It also led to the removal of two structures from the site, according to the city.

Similarly, a wood cabin was removed from the site on Feb. 28.

Carol Ravnaas with the Addictions and Mental Health Services in Kingston said the team at the integrated care hub is doing what it can to help affected individuals.

“We’ve really been working hard to connect people to an indoor place they can stay (in) versus being outside. Even if it’s for a night or a few nights,” she said, noting that the organization works to provide services who are unhoused or on the brink of being homeless. “The Integrated Care Hub also has a consumption treatment site as a part of it. It is a safe place of consumption where we seek to keep people alive.”

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According to the city, support staff with the housing and services department were at the site on Tuesday to help anyone affected by the removal of the structures.

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“It’s devastating and it’s a constant worry when you’re living outside. Fire can be personally so dangerous, and you can lose all your things,” Ravnaas said.

According to Ted Posadowski, chief fire prevention officer with Kingston Fire and Rescue, this year has so far seen about 16 tent fires. For all of last year, that number was down to 11. He added that while the designated fire inspector for the encampment aims to provide public education, enforcement occurs where structures are removed along with hazardous items.

Despite the increasing numbers of fires that crews have had to deal with, Posadowski said it’s ultimately slowed down with crews being on site since Feb. 6.

“(T)he numbers have trended downwards significantly,” he said.

— With files from Global’s Fawwaz Mohammed-Yusuf.

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