June 7, 2017 6:52 am
Updated: June 7, 2017 2:07 pm

Careless smoking leads to spike in balcony fires in 2017: Toronto Fire Services

Fri, Mar 31: A potted plant caught fire and charred a balcony at one of the Fort York condos in Toronto’s west end. Residents and the condo management claim it's a big problem. Tom Hayes reports.

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Toronto Fire officials are warning resident living in high-rise buildings to be careful with how they dispose of their cigarettes following a spike in balcony fires in the city this year.

Firefighters have responded to 27 balcony fires since Jan. 1, two more than the total of 25 from all of last year.

“We’ve averaging over one a week, double the rate from 2016,” Toronto Deputy Fire Chief Jim Jessop told reporters during a press conference Wednesday morning.

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Officials say the alarming increase is attributed to carelessly discarded cigarettes from the units above.

READ MORE: How quickly can a discarded cigarette start a fire?

Property damage in 2017 alone has exceeded $300,000 and there are concerns the number of fires will increase as the summer months approaches.

“We are very fortunate at this point, we have not had any serious injury or fatality but certainly we have had significant high-rise fires which poses a huge challenge given our vertical city,” Jessop said.

In 2010, the 200 Wellesley Street fire — which displaced 600 residents and caused more than $1 million in damages — was officially determined to have been caused by a carelessly discarded cigarette over the balcony landing on combustible materials.

Fire officials said they have begun a month-long public awareness campaign in an effort to get the message across to apartment and condo dwellers.

“Our investigations have determined everything from potted plants to peat moss, to couches, to chairs, to cardboard, to storage materials. Anything that is combustible is prone to a cigarette landing on it and catching on fire,” Jessop explained.

Toronto Fire Services said there is nothing in the provincial Fire Protection and Prevention Act or the Ontario Fire Code that speaks to how cigarettes have to be disposed.

“We would all hope candidly, common sense and respect for your neighbours would play into the matter,” Jessop said. “But the evidence right now is certainly trending in the wrong way.”

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