Alarm increases over garbage bin fires
During the past two and a half months, an arsonist has set fire to at least 23 Waste Management garbage bins in Central Alberta, including Mountain View County.
And fire officials are becoming increasingly concerned the random criminal acts could lead to more serious blazes.
“These fires are a concern to us as they could spread to buildings. We don’t want to see a building catch fire,” said Lorne Thompson, fire chief for Olds.
He said the town has experienced about a half dozen reported bin fires over the past two and a half months.
However, Rina Blacklaws, spokesperson for Waste Management, said her company has confirmed 23 bin fires behind businesses throughout Central Alberta over the same time period. She said the locations include Olds, Rocky Mountain House, Blackfalds, Stettler, Eckville, Sylvan Lake, Innisfail, and Didsbury.
“This is a recurring problem, but we have noticed an increase of bin fires within the last three months,” said Blacklaws, adding there have been no reports so far of any damage to buildings from any of the bin fires.
Blacklaws said there has been a cost for the company to repair the bins, but the amount has varied depending on the extent of the damage. She said her company is unaware of any motive behind the blazes.
She also said that some bin fires go unreported to police and fire departments.
John Syroid, fire chief for Innisfail, said his office has not received any recent complaints of garbage bin fires but there was a rash of them a few years ago.
“We caught the last arsonist to do that,” said Syroid. “He was caught and taken to jail.”
Bob Wright, safety officer for the Didsbury Fire Department, said his office has not received any complaints of bin fires.
Thompson said his department is working with the RCMP to find the culprit but said the investigation has been challenging, as the fires have been set where there have been no security cameras to capture an image of the arsonist.
He said the recent rash is similar to one last year in the town when blazes were deliberately set in several bins.
“It is hard to describe other than this problem comes and goes,” said Thompson.
He said the culprit is targeting bins that contain cardboard and recyclable materials that can easily catch fire.
“There is plenty of fuel in those,” said Thompson.
Meanwhile, Waste Management is encouraging the public and customers to keep their bins locked at all times. Blacklaws said locks are available to all customers.
She said the company is also urging customers to keep their bins in an enclosed area or a safe distance from their building.
“Avoid smoking near bins, and dispose of all combustible and flammable materials properly,” said Blacklaws. “Fire prevention and safety are integral components to our business and we encourage our customers to speak with their area representative for tips on preventing garbage bin fires.”
Anyone with information that might assist police and fire department officials in their investigation is asked to contact Olds RCMP at 403-556-3324 or the Olds Fire Department at 403-507-4850.