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Firefighters in Salmon Arm respond to calls over weekend involving people living rough

Fire chief says no weekend calls were generated by new tent encampment
Salmon Arm firefighters are pictured here in April 2022 fighting a residential fire near the corner of 20th Street NE and Okanagan Avenue. Firefighters responded to a small fire at the same location this past weekend, on April 9, which was quickly extinguished and thought to have been caused by people squatting in the house. (File photo)

Salmon Arm firefighters were kept busy over the weekend.

One call on Sunday, April 9 about 7 a.m. was regarding a home that firefighters had visited a year earlier, in April 2022.

Fire Chief Brad Shirley said the fire, at a house at the corner of Okanagan Avenue and 20th Street NE, turned out to be “fairly small.” It started in close proximity to “kind of a homemade wood stove,” which may have been the cause, he said.

He was told that people without homes had been squatting in the building. They were not hurt in the fire.

Fortunately, someone had witnessed it in its early stages so the lower floor of the house, where the fire started, sustained very little damage, Shirley said.

He added it was his understanding that the house had not had verified occupants since the fire in April 2022.

Staff Sgt. Scott West of Salmon Arm RCMP said one person at the property was taken into custody by police following the fire. Their investigation is continuing.

Two other calls the Salmon Arm Fire Department responded to over the weekend appeared to be started by people living rough.

One was just after midnight, involving a couple of people trying to stay warm, Shirley said.

They lit a fire in the entranceway of SASCU Memorial Indoor Arena, and were camped under the covering.

“It was a small campfire that they were having, with certainly the potential to be catastrophic there too,” he remarked.

Firefighters were also called out Monday afternoon, April 10, due to a small fire near Buckerfield’s that was abandoned when firefighters arrived.

Shirley said no fire calls were received over the long weekend from the new tent encampment on city property near Peter Jannink Park and Churches Thrift Shop.

However, he said, firefighters responded to several there prior to the weekend. He explained that the city does not permit fires in that spot, so nearby residents call 911 when they see one.

“Neighbouring residents there are quite good at reporting those anytime day or night. We have to extinguish the fire or have them (the tenters) extinguish the fire.”

Asked if is difficult for firefighters, he said it can be. While a lot of times people will run away and no one will be visible, sometimes they are present and can be aggressive and belligerent to firefighters, Shirley said.

The fire department has developed safety protocols to deal with potential danger, he said, due to the unknowns firefighters might encounter.

Read more: Emergency social services called in when fire damages Salmon Arm modular home

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Martha Wickett

About the Author: Martha Wickett

came to Salmon Arm in May of 2004 to work at the Observer. I was looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland, where I had spent more than a decade working in community newspapers.
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