Butt out on your bal­cony: T.O. re ghters

Cig­a­rettes start more res this year so far than in all of 2016

Metro Canada (Toronto) - - FRONT PAGE - May War­ren Metro | Toronto

Toronto fire­fight­ers are warn­ing about a spike in condo bal­cony fires but want more re­sources to get the mes­sage out.

Cig­a­rettes sparked about 25 bal­cony fires in the city last year, and al­ready there have been 27 so far this year.

“What we’re see­ing is that cig­a­rette butts are not be­ing dis­posed of prop­erly,” said Stephen Welowszky, di­vi­sion chief of pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion at Toronto Fire Ser­vices. “When you live in a highrise, it’s all those units around you. Things can hap­pen real quickly, so you don’t want to put your­self or any­one else in dan­ger.”

On Wed­nes­day an­other fire broke out on the bal­cony of a sev­enth-floor unit at Ade­laide Street West near John Street. Crews brought it un­der con­trol at about 7 a.m, and no one was hurt. Toronto Fire Ser­vices were still try­ing to de­ter­mine the cause.

Welowszky said the ser­vice is go­ing door-to-door in Toronto Com­mu­nity Hous­ing build­ings this month as part of a public­safety cam­paign on bal­cony smok­ing and other is­sues.

But as the city builds higher, the chal­lenges grow too.

“You can imag­ine if we had a fire on the 30th floor and our crews had to go up 30 sto­ries in the stair­well, that’s go­ing to add time on to our abil­ity to reach that fire,” he said.

Condo tow­ers are also a prob­lem for paramedics. A 2016 study from re­searchers at St. Michael’s Hos­pi­tal found that the higher the floor peo­ple lived in, the less of a chance they had to sur­vive a heart at­tack.

Welowszky said pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion is key to pre­vent­ing fires.

“We are the most di­verse city prob­a­bly in the world. To reach out to all the dif­fer­ent peo­ple that live in this city, if there’s lan­guage bar­ri­ers, it’s very dif­fi­cult,” he said.

“Any­thing that we can do re­source-wise to ex­pand our ed­u­ca­tion cam­paigns ... to reach all of the cit­i­zens in a mean­ing­ful way, that would cer­tainly go a long way.”

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