‘It still takes a toll’: WFPS deputy chief reacts to fiery long weekend

Winnipeg firefighters had their hands full over the long weekend as they tackled several significant blazes in less than 48 hours.

Between Friday night and Sunday evening, Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS) crews responded to eight fires – primarily in the city’s core and north end.

“Every extra fire puts additional risk on our crews in general,” WFPS deputy chief Scott Wilkinson told CTV News. “And in the summer months, there’s heat issues and there’s different risks in the buildings.”

Wilkinson said WFPS typically does see an increase in fires throughout the summer – adding some are incendiary or opportunistic blazes. He noted the fires from the weekend were still under investigation.

He said the total volumes of calls over a busy weekend puts a strain on WFPS resources as fully involved fires require a lot of personnel. Three different platoons responded to the blazes smattered throughout the two-day stretch, he said, adding it’s fortunate the fires didn’t happen during the same shift.

“That would have even been more demanding, but it still takes a toll. We saw multiples in one shift, and the resources get spread thin,” Wilkinson elaborated. “And there’s a lot of hard work that has to be done.”

Of note, two of the properties – a vacant two-storey home on William Avenue and a vacant commercial building on Logan Avenue – underwent emergency demolition. Wilkinson said demolitions are typically ordered for two reasons; safety or access.

“In some of them, the question is structural stability and whether it’s safe for that building to remain standing where there’s a risk to the public,” Wilkinson explained. “And in other cases, it’s whether we need to do some demolition to access the fire and complete extinguishment, which is what occurred on Logan Avenue.”

Wilkinson said, thankfully, no injuries were reported during the rash of blazes.

“Our number one thing is protecting the public and keeping our personnel safe as they work,” Wilkinson said. “We’ve obviously had some more difficult calls in the past weeks, that weren’t injury-free, but these ones, we take solace in our crews being able to do a great job and keep everyone safe.”

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