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Four homeless people in Edmonton died in fires in last two months, city says


EDMONTON — The City of Edmonton says there have been four fire-related deaths in the past two months involving homeless people.

The city says they may seek shelter in encampments, abandoned buildings or other structures that are unsafe. 

It says earlier this week, one person was found dead in an abandoned building in northeastern Edmonton after firefighters responded to smoke at the scene.

The city says another person died recently in a fire after they tried to gain access to a former lodging downtown.

It adds that one person died when trying to get inside a locked waste collection bin and another died while seeking shelter in an encampment.

The city says it is working with Edmonton Fire Rescue Services to develop a strategy to reduce fires in unsecured vacant properties.

“This is a tragedy,” Rob McAdam, deputy fire chief, said in a news release Friday. 

“Individuals experiencing homelessness face unique fire risks. Fire Rescue and our community partners must evolve prevention efforts to ensure optimal safety for all Edmontonians.”

In Edmonton, there are more than 2,800 people with no permanent home and about 1,200 are sleeping outside or in shelters on any given night, the city says.

Last month, Premier Jason Kenney announced $21.5 million to address homelessness and domestic violence, as well as for isolation spaces for vulnerable people infected with COVID-19.

About $13 million of the money is to aid 14 shelters to expand space and provide meals, showers, laundry services and access to addictions and mental-health services.

Another $6.5 million is to help open about 285 isolation spaces in 10 communities, and $2 million is to support emergency women's shelters.

Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said at the time that the provincial funding came at a crucial moment with the city's unhoused population doubling during the pandemic and there weren’t enough shelter spaces to accommodate them.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2021. 

The Canadian Press