Just past the anniversary of a man’s death who was living rough in Salmon Arm, a firefighter has come up with what he hopes will prevent more injuries and losses.
It was on March 5, 2020 that Vinny Larson, who had been living in a camp he’d set up near Buckerfield’s, died in a fire there.
Steve St. Denis, fire prevention officer with the Salmon Arm Fire Department, in collaboration with the Salvation Army and other social service agencies, suggested that all those people living rough be provided with a small, two-pound fire extinguisher. They will also be given a carbon monoxide/smoke detector the department was provided by the Fire Chiefs’ Association of BC.
In addition to the deadly fire in March 2020, on March 4 this year the fire department was called to a blaze between the Foreshore Trail and Lakeshore Road, just above the railway tracks. Although the cause was not determined, it started where someone had set up camp. They were not hurt but some of their belongings were destroyed. An approaching train was stopped.
Concerned about the increasing numbers of fires around town, St. Denis went to the Salvation Army to talk about creating an outreach program to provide information on fire risks and safety.
As well as creating a safety brochure, they came up with the idea of handing out fire extinguishers.
“Even if a small fire did start, they could put it out immediately and not have it lead to a bigger fire or a bigger loss of what they do have. It would give them enough time to get… to a safer area,” he said.
He pointed out the smoke detector would wake them up if they were sleeping heavily in a tent.
St. Denis said such fires are not a problem for Salmon Arm alone.
“It’s a common occurrence; we’re not the only department dealing with this. What other departments are doing I don’t know. The fire extinguisher was something we thought could be a valuable resource.”
The safety brochures will be given to those people and agencies who support people without homes. Organizers of the Food with Friends lunch program, for instance, will be provided brochures to give to people who drop in.
“So hopefully we can prevent a larger loss and make them a little bit safer and more conscious of their propane safety and fire safety in their camps,” St. Denis said.