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Local fire departments help to prevent more fires at encampments

Encampment fires are a growing issue in the area
Fire truck
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Fires at encampments have been increasing recently as unsheltered residents attempt to stay warm this winter.

Waterloo Region fire departments have been working with the residents to ensure they stay safe while using appliances.

Chief Fire Prevention Officer at the Cambridge Fire Department said his biggest concern is the combustible materials. He shared what advice has been given.

"Keep a metre space between tents and structures just to ensure, if there was a fire, that there's adequate spacing to reduce the risk to extension to neighbouring tents or structures." said Eric Yates.

Tom Ruggle is the Chief Fire Prevention Officer at the Kitchener Fire Department, and shared his department's biggest worry.

"One of the things that we're primarily focused on is the method of heating," said Ruggle. "Improvised methods of heating is probably our number one risk."

Both Ruggle and Yates said that there's been a priority to provide the encampments with not only the proper education of the hazards of certain appliances like propane heaters, but also to supply substitutes like candle lanterns or warming kits to try and prevent the use of any appliance.

The Region of Waterloo will attempt to get enough shelter and affordable housing for these residents to satisfy Justice Michael Valente to allow the clearing of the tents, but until then, keeping the encampments as safe and risk-free as possible has been decided as the best way forward.

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