If you feel like you’re seeing more fires in Winnipeg recently, you’re not imagining it — according to the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS), the number of fires in Winnipeg has grown considerably the last few years.
The WFPS says it was called to 2,545 fires in 2022 — down slightly from 2021, but still more than 40 per cent higher than the number recorded only two years earlier.
Vacant house fires continue to be a challenge, almost doubling in number from 43 in 2019 to 84 last year.
“These are a significant concern to the community, for community safety, and also definitely to our fire crews for their safety when trying to extinguish them,” assistant fire chief Scott Wilkinson told 680 CJOB’s The Start.
“We have been working diligently with a number of other city departments and we’re actually seeing some progress on bylaw and other administrative changes to hopefully better manage that situation.”
The fire department also credits the work done by the WFPS community risk reduction branch in proactively preventing fires from happening.
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The fires in vacant homes, aside from the safety aspect, can have a cyclical effect on struggling communities, Wilkinson said.
“It’s a struggle in our city to make sure we have enough low-income, low-barrier and affordable housing.
“One of the problems we’re seeing is that a lot of the fires occur in these types of structures and it’s affecting the housing stock that our vulnerable populations need.”
Wilkinson said some progress has been made recently in trying to bring Winnipeg’s numbers down, but lots of factors play into the increase, including the city’s overall population growth.
“We do have a number of other issues, including some socioeconomic challenges in the city and some older housing stock that contributes to our residential and structural fires,” he said.
“And of course, extreme weather conditions had a relation to some of the numbers we saw with exterior and outdoor fires as well.”