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NWT fire marshal worried about number of fires caused by smoking


The Northwest Territories’ fire marshal, troubled by a recent series of fires caused by smoking, urged people to take precautions to prevent accidental fires.

On Wednesday, fire marshal Chucker Dewar and the territorial government said building fires in Fort Simpson, Fort Smith, Hay River, Inuvik, and Yellowknife had caused “significant property losses and injuries” in the past month.

“The recent fire events involving loss have been attributed to smoking material,” Dewar told Cabin Radio. 

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“This isn’t the first time that fire protection services has cautioned residents about hazards associated with smoking material and my hope is that we can reduce, and better yet eliminate, the trend that we’re currently experiencing.” 

Dewar said while people have largely moved from smoking indoors to outdoors, they don’t always properly extinguish their smoldering butts. When that happens close to a home, he said, siding can ignite and fire will travel directly to the roof.

“These are extremely difficult for firefighters to extinguish as roofs are designed to naturally shed water,” he said, adding firefighters have to try to battle those fires from attic space, which can take time.

“Typically the fire has progressed to the point where they have to move their operation to a defensive posture, which is fighting the fire from outside the structure because it’s too dangerous to go inside or go on the roof.” 

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The fire marshal said residents should smoke away from buildings or anything that can catch fire, and extinguish butts in an approved container like a deep ashtray or metal pail filled with sand or water, preferably with a lid.

“You need three things for combustion. You need a fuel supply, you need heat, and you need oxygen,” he said. “If you remove any one of those things, you’ve eliminated the fire.”

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