Fire at Belle Park encampment prompts removal of structures

Remnants of a gazebo-style structure at Belle Park after a fire. Photo via the City of Kingston.

Another fire at the Belle Park encampment, on the evening of Monday, Mar. 4, 2024, has prompted the City of Kingston to release a statement regarding fire safety at the encampment. This fire comes less than one week after an individual was injured in a tent fire at the same location.

Kingston Fire and Rescue crews responded to Belle Park for a reported vegetation fire at approximately 7:15 p.m. last night. According to the statement from the City, fire crews observed a gazebo-style wood structure fully engulfed in flames. Shortly after, the fire was extinguished, and no injuries occurred.

In the statement, the City noted that Fire Prevention attended and observed sterno containers in the suspected area of origin and throughout the structure. Sterno is a brand of jellied, denatured alcohol sold in and meant to be burned directly in its can, and is most commonly used for heating chafing dishes at a buffet or serving fondue.

An Immediate Threat to Life Notice was issued for the removal of the sterno containers and items used to construct a homemade wood stove, according to the statement.

Kingston Fire & Rescue, exercising powers under section 15 of the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, dismantled the wood structure and a partially enclosed combustible structure today, Tuesday, Mar. 5, 2024, in Belle Park. 

Photo via the City of Kingston.

“The safety of people living in the Belle Park area remains of utmost concern. Last night’s incidents resulted in two Immediate Threats to Life Notices being issued – one, for the removal of the wood structure and a second due to a campfire burning inside a combustible structure where the walls were made of skids and tarp,” said Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Donaldson. 

“We’re urging people to please use extreme caution in these situations. In recent weeks, fire crews have been called to multiple incidents where homemade fire sources inside combustibles structures have been the cause.”

Under the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, inspectors who believe a risk of fire poses an immediate threat to life have the authority to enter on land or premises and take any action urgently required to remove or reduce the threat to life and/or remove any items that may constitute a fire menace. 

According to the City, these actions are not related to enforcement of the Parks By-Law’s prohibition on daytime camping in parks. 

To date, Kingston Fire & Rescue has taken action to remove or reduce immediate threats to life within Belle Park approximately 36 separate times, according to the City of Kingston. 

The City noted that support workers and staff from the City’s Housing and Social Services department were on site and available to assist anyone affected by the removal of the structures, including offering storage options for belongings, shelter space, and transportation. Kingstonist was not been able to verify those accounts with anyone living at the encampment by time of publication. Further coverage will be provided if/when more information becomes available.

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