It’s been a busy year for firefighters in Lethbridge. So far, 17 structure and vehicle fires have been reported in the city, officials said Thursday.
“This summer’s been quite busy,” said Troy Hicks, a fire investigator with Lethbridge Fire and EMS.
“We usually average close to 10 fires a year. This year… we’ve already seen 17 by the month of August and we’ve still got four months to go.”
Of those fires, Hicks said many have been deemed accidental and preventable.
“We’ve had everything from electrical fires to unfortunately, another candle fire with an unattended candle,” he said.
“We’ve also had a couple of smoking fires this year with improper disposal of smoking material that could have gotten a lot worse.”
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So far in August, firefighters have responded to three residential fires, all of which they believe are linked to smoking materials.
On Aug, 8, officials wrapped up an investigation on a fire that took place on an apartment balcony in Highlands Blvd. W. They determined a cigarette was to blame.
One day later, a fire scorched the front of a house in the city’s north side. Three stations responded, deeming the fire accidental after discarded smoking material turned into flames beneath the porch.
The most recent blaze took place on Wednesday morning, where 19 firefighters from three stations responded to a garage engulfed in flames.
“The family of six made it out of the home safely,” said Hicks.
“The fire was definitely an accidental fire. But some of the things, looking around, we just really remind people all the time that if they’re going to smoke, then they need to be aware of their surroundings, and just be careful of what they’re doing.”
Although Hicks wasn’t sure of the exact total of damage caused so far this year, he said these preventable fires can be a very expensive mistake.
“When we do lose an entire home, it can be anywhere from $200,000 to $500,000,” he said.
“We have had some major loss. In previous years, we had two fires two summers ago which were rather large fires caused by improper smoking material. That year they added up to over $7 million. It’s a big loss that happens and it’s all preventable.”
Hicks hopes the department’s warnings about being cautious with objects that could easily spark flames, such as smoking materials, candles and cooking instruments, will help decrease the risk of more residential fires this year.