Vancouver Fire and Rescue reveals 504 calls for single SRO hotel in 2022 in deleted tweet

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Vancouver fire unveils SRO stat
Vancouver Fire Rescue Service Tweets a surprising stat, shining a light on a wider dilemma of fire safety issues in SRO buildings. Catherine Urquhart reports – Jan 4, 2023

A now-deleted tweet from Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services revealed that the service responded to hundreds of calls at an SRO hotel in 2022.

“In 2022, we responded to a single SRO 504 times for various emergency calls,” Vancouver Fire Rescue staff said in the tweet.

“300 of those calls were for smoking cigarettes/drugs. VFRS is currently billing the building for each false alarm, prosecuting this building as well as multiple other SROs for fire bylaw offenses.”

SRO stands for single-room occupancy hotel.

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Residents displaced by fire at Chinatown SRO

Global News has learned the SRO the fire service was talking about is Hotel Canada, located on Richards Street.

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The SRO hotel is owned by BC Housing and operated by Atira.

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Janice Abbott, Atira’s executive director, said the tweet was not surprising, is also empathic for the fire service, and understands how it can be frustrating for firefighters.

“All of our buildings are nonsmoking but really the only recourse you have is to evict people,” Abbott said.

“And so (we’re) forever juggling the issues of things like false alarms with the alternative (being eviction) there isn’t really isn’t an alternative.”

Ken Sim, Vancouver’s new mayor, said the tweet was shocking and something city officials didn’t know previously.

“We learned about the news mention in the tweet at the same time as the public — this information is a shock to us,” Sim said.

“We look forward to hearing comments and additional details from the fire chief.”

Another factor to take into account, according to Atira, is the volatility of the tenants if “pressure” is put on them.

“If we put pressure on tenants, that will cause them to mess with or dismantle their smoke alarms which we absolutely don’t want them to do,” Abbott said.

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Karen Fry, Vancouver Fire Rescue’s Fire Chief, provided a statement for Global News regarding the issue.

“We are working hard with all of the stakeholders including BC Housing, the building managers, the province, and the city to ensure the SROs in Vancouver are fire safe,” she said.

It is unclear why the tweet was deleted. Global News has reached out to Vancouver Fire Rescue for more information.

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