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Butane torch lighters help spark Vancouver to a record high in fire calls

Service responded to 2,113 calls in year’s first half, most in its history for that period
Officials investigate after a nearby underground electrical vault caught fire and and caused an explosion in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Feb. 24, 2023. The Vancouver Fire Rescue Service says the first half of 2023 has been a record breaking period for fire-related incidents in the city. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rich Lam

The Vancouver Fire Rescue Service says the first half of 2023 has been a record-breaking period for fire-related incidents in the city, with alarming numbers of calls involving drug users and butane torches with flame-locking mechanisms.

Fire information officer Matthew Trudeau says the service responded to 2,113 calls in the first half of the year, the most in the service’s history for the same period and a 31 per cent increase compared to the first half of 2022.

The fire service says in a statement that the leading cause of fires remains discarded smoking materials including matches, lighters, candles, cigarettes, and drug paraphernalia, causing nearly 60 per cent of all incidents.

The fire service says it’s also worried about more fires occurring in single-room occupancy buildings, as well as a notable spike in outdoor fires.

Trudeau says there have been numerous single-room occupancy fires caused by drug users dropping locked butane lighters and setting fire to themselves or their surroundings.

The service says four people have died in fires so far in 2023, three of them involving blazes caused by smokers’ materials.

The fire service also says more than a quarter of all fires have been the result of arson, which it says is part of an upward trend in suspicious fire incidents.

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