Butt out on your balcony: T.O. re ghters
Cigarettes start more res this year so far than in all of 2016
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.”