Vancouver firefighters tackle surge of outdoor, intentionally set fires

After a fire was intentionally set behind a Chinatown restaurant Monday, firefighters say it was far from the first blaze they’ve dealt with in recent days.

Capt. Matt Trudeau says crews responded to about 20 outdoor, intentionally set fires in Vancouver’s Downtown, Downtown Eastside and Strathcona neighbourhoods this past weekend.

While that’s not a particularly high number for a cold weekend in the winter, Trudeau says it’s a concerning number considering that temperatures weren’t extremely low for the first weekend of April.

Generally, Trudeau says firefighters will often arrive at the scene of these fires to find the person who lit the fire fleeing the area.

Often, the fires are started with lighters and butane torches in places like alleys, using materials like dumpsters, garbage cans or mattresses, Trudeau explains.

“I don’t know the specific rational or mentality behind people doing this,” he added.

If individuals are lighting fires for warmth, Trudeau says he’d encourage them to seek shelter instead, for their own safety and others’.

“It’s for the individual person, the buildings, the businesses, all the shelters and the homes,” he said.

And to people who are seeing flames or smoke coming from anywhere across the city, he says it’s important to never assume emergency crews have already been notified.

“If anyone sees smoke or fire, never assume that someone has called 9-1-1, even if people have their phones out,” he said.

“The more information and eyes we have available to get crews on scene quicker is helpful.”

With files from Robyn Crawford.