WINNIPEG – Eight suspected arsons firefighters dealt with early Wednesday are part of a larger problem, according to United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg president Alex Forrest.
“We’ve been putting out these arsons all summer,” Forrest said Wednesday morning. “Last night is not out of the ordinary.”
Garages and garbage bins burned on Furby Street, Jarvis Avenue, Redwood Avenue, Main Street, College Avenue, Fernwood Avenue, Robertson Street and St. Anne’s Road.
Half a dozen garages were damaged in the North End around Mountain Avenue, said a woman who lives near the College garage that burned.
Forrest is angry about the city’s response to arsons, saying the Youth Fire Stop program was cut after the number of arsons in the city went down.
“The arsons were going down and they cut the funding,” he said.
“If we put in investment now, we can solve this problem,” he added. “The way to deal with this is through education … We were making progress on this.”
The city has a committee looking at the problem but the firefighters’ union isn’t on it, Forrest said.
“All they’ve done is cleaned up garbage,” he said.
While Fire Paramedic Service Chief Reid Douglas is on the committee, the union also needs to be involved, Forrest said.
“For some reason, we haven’t been part of this.”
However, a city spokeswoman said in an email that Fire Paramedic Service members are on the arson prevention committee, and the Youth Fire Stop program is operating under capacity.
“The Arson Prevention Committee does include members of both the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service Fire Prevention and Operations branches,” Alissa Clark said in an emailed response to Forrest’s statements.
The Youth Fire Stop program has three Fire Paramedic Service staffers, and the program’s capacity is higher than the number of referrals it receives from police, social services and schools, she said.
“If the number of referrals were to meet or exceed the present capacity, WFPS would prioritize resources to meet the demand,” her email says.