Saskatoon sees more suspicious fires in first half of 2020 than all of 2019

Less than halfway through the year, Saskatoon has already seen more suspicious fires in 2020 than in all of 2019.

There have been 50 incendiary fires this year, compared to 47 in 2019, said Yvonne Raymer, assistant chief for the Saskatoon Fire Department.

Investigators have confirmed six incendiary fires in the past eight days alone.

READ MORE: Saskatoon firefighters investigating three suspicious fires in one day

“It is concerning that we’ve had this many incendiary fires,” Raymer said.

“We’re working really closely with the police service. We’ve been providing them all our data on where these fires are occurring and some heat maps.”

There have been garbage, vehicle and structure fires, mostly in the Pleasant Hill neighbourhood, she said.

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Twenty-nine of them have happened in vacant, boarded-up buildings.

The fire department has inspected 100 suspect properties since the fall, identifying 47 vacant structures.

“We did deem that if it was a vacant, boarded building that was of concern, it became a priority one for the fire prevention division,” Raymer said.

READ MORE: Committee endorses Saskatoon Fire Department’s proposal to investigate boarded-up homes

About 50 enforcement actions have been ordered, from repairs to full demolition.

An incendiary fire on May 20 caused $300,000 in damages to a boarded-up residential property. The building on the 1600 Block of Avenue C North will be demolished as a result.

Raymer said it’s unclear why there have been so many suspicious fires this year, but wonders if it could have something to do with the coronavirus pandemic.

“There’s a lot of things that go through our mind,” she said. “We’re not police officers by any means, but you know, we’ve looked at maybe it is (connected to the pandemic).”

Another reason could be that people are failing to report suspicious activity, she said.

Raymer is urging people to stow away combustibles on their property and to contact police if they see anything suspicious.

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