Fire service kept busy with nuisance fires in woods, secluded areas

Firefighters had to return to Memorial Park twice Thursday to put out smouldering logs from a fire Wednesday night. (Dale Molnar/CBC - image credit)
Firefighters had to return to Memorial Park twice Thursday to put out smouldering logs from a fire Wednesday night. (Dale Molnar/CBC - image credit)

At around 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Windsor firefighters were called to a bonfire burning downed trees and brush in Memorial Park on Ypres Boulevard.

It was the latest in a series of such nuisance fires in the woods over the past year.

"There have been about a half dozen over the past eight months," said Ward 4 Councillor-Elect Mark McKenzie.

"Whether it's kids or homeless people or who it is, we're not entirely sure," said Tim Leech, who lives across the street on Ypres.

Dale Molnar/CBC
Dale Molnar/CBC

Dave O'Neil, fire prevention officer with Windsor Fire and Rescue, says crews have also been called out several times to nuisance fires in secluded areas around the CN tracks off Grand Marais Road West over the past year.

"Usually we're just finding open burn pits and they're burning wood and what not. A lot of time it's private property, so they're actually trespassing on that property," said O'Neil, adding that these fires can threaten nearby buildings as burning embers fly through the area.

"We've had a few where they actually have had their open burn pits and the fire is transferred into the grasslands and or the trees," said O'Neil, who says some of the fires are likely being set by people experiencing homelessness.

Firefighters are also concerned that these fires keep them busy and hinder their ability to respond to major fires, car accidents and other emergencies.

A trip to the hill along the E.C. Row near the CN Tracks reveals a burn pit the size of a hot tub, and several spots where opening burning had obviously occurred.

Dale Molnar/CBC
Dale Molnar/CBC

Kelly Goz, co-ordinator of housing administration and development services with the City of Windsor, can't say for sure who is causing the fires, but when it comes to people living outdoors in encampments the city has a strategy to help them find shelter and permanent housing.

"I would like to see more city patrol," said Leech. "I would like to see more of the social services addressing the needs of the homeless and the youth so that they're not out using drugs and getting into trouble. And I would like to see, if necessary, more lighting and possibly even cameras in the area," he said.

McKenzie said he has brought the issue up with administration and plans are being worked out with Windsor police to provide better enforcement around Memorial Park.