Halloween arsons less common but still a worry for P.E.I. firefighters

·2 min read

The deputy chief of the North River Fire Department says firefighters will be on high alert as Halloween falls on a Saturday night this year.

Dean Smith told CBC News that his department will traditionally have firefighters at the station well into the night so that they can respond to calls more quickly.

"We figured we were going to be there anyway so we just plan on being there."

He said Halloween night calls about arson and vandalism have been down in recent years, because "penalties and repercussions for doing such nuisance kind of things are more severe," but they still happen.

"We hang around the fire hall just because we expect to go out and we want to be prepared and ready to go out."

Most deliberately set Halloween fires in the North River area have involved "tires or bales of hay or, you know, even old furniture, and they'll just put it out in the road and light it on fire. But we've had other ones where there's been structures or larger fires."

Most of the buildings targeted are vacant and derelict, so Smith said there's no urgency to fight them for the sake of saving valuable property.

"We had an abandoned fishing boat one time that somebody set on fire," he added.

We had an abandoned fishing boat one time that somebody set on fire. - Dean Smith, North River Fire Department

"It seems pretty innocent until you get a firefighter that gets injured battling that fire."

One year, he said, a firefighter injured his back after slipping on some accelerant that had been poured on the vinyl floor of a derelict building.

Smith noted that the people setting fires are not just endangering the firefighters, but themselves as well. He recalls one arsonist who ended up "pretty injured from the burns."

As for household safety, Smith advised against real candles in pumpkins, "especially if you've got a jack-o-lantern near a bale of straw sitting on a wooden deck." It's much safer to use a battery-operated tealight candle, he said.

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