Toronto Fire Service (TFS) is sounding the alarm over a recent rise in the number of balcony fires caused by carelessly discarded cigarettes. Currently, it is the leading cause of blazes in high-rise buildings in the city, said Deputy Chief Jim Jessop.
Jessop said Wednesday that there have been 27 of these incidents to date in 2017, which works out to an average rate of one per week. That’s double the rate for 2016, which saw a total of 25 such incidents. The associated property damage to date in 2017 has topped $300,000.
“As the summer months approach, our fear is the number of fires resulting from carelessly discarded cigarettes over balconies in high-rise buildings is going to increase,” said Jessop, speaking at a press conference.
The press conference followed analysis by TFS’ investigations division that identified the emerging trend as well as a string of these incidents last week.
In one case, fire fighters had to rescue an occupant in a wheelchair after a carelessly discarded cigarette sparked a fire in a neighbouring unit. Jessop said it’s “very fortunate” that none of these incidents has caused a serious injury or fatality.
TFS is calling on high-rise building residents to “please stop carelessly disposing your cigarettes over the balcony,” he said. Balcony fires can also be ignited by cigarettes discarded in potted plants, particularly when peat moss is present, Jessop added.
TFS’ public education division is launching a month-long campaign tonight that will see it visit high-rise buildings to inform residents about this leading cause of fire. This division is also visiting buildings where blazes have been sparked by carelessly discarded cigarettes with the goal of preventing repeat incidents.
Jessop cautioned high-rise building residents to be mindful of the quantity of combustible materials, such as chairs and plants, on their balcony.
“If you see cigarettes have landed and are accumulating on your balcony, speak with your property management company as well,” he said.