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Open burning remains a top cause for fires in Courtenay, supports needed to combat issue

With temperatures rising and drier weather on the horizon, open burning remains one of the top reasons for calls for fire service in Courtenay.

According to fire chief Kurt MacDonald, Courtenay Fire Department responded to over 1,200 calls in 2022. That’s up from a little over 1,000 calls in 2021 and from around 700 a decade ago.

Of the calls, the top reasons were fire alarm activations, open burns and motor vehicle incidents with September being the busiest month.

The fire department adds calls were similar in the first six months of 2022 to 2021, but an extended dry spell caused calls to increase. So far in 2023, MacDonald says they are 156 calls ahead of the pace up to April.

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MacDonald says that when it comes to open burning, it does not just include having a fire in your backyard. It also includes cigarettes and other factors.

He adds education has gone a long way decreasing the risk and they do not often have to issue fines. However, decreasing the number runs into problems with social issues with some of the community’s unhoused.

“Those are the numbers that really are driving the increase and it’s difficult for us to educate when the supports aren’t in place to provide an alternative to those individuals to the burning,” said MacDonald. “The urban issues associated with the burning, that is escalating dramatically.”

MacDonald adds of the over 300 open burning calls, around 170 of them were related to urban issues.

Councillor Evan Jolicoeur added that it highlights a need to continue to fight for more housing.

The fire department also conducted over 1,700 fire inspections, and public education programs returned as COVID-19 restrictions eased.

MacDonald added they deployed to crews to the Apex Mountain fire in August and were able to Fire Smart neighbourhoods, scout fire activity and check suppression equipment.

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