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This article was published 8/10/2014 (1927 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The city's fire chief may be crying poor over budgets and staffing, but at least they're dealing with a huge drop in the number of arsons.
The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service saw a 41 per cent drop in arson last year, 2013 numbers released by the WFPS on Wednesday show.
The removal of 5,000 autobins was a key factor in the city's war on arson last year.
Barely a month ago, Fire Chief John Lane delivered a dire warning about funding and staffing levels. He told city council's civic finance committee the department runs on a budget that's underfunded with staffing levels that barely cover overtime.
"The city's new recycling and garbage-collection program has been a major factor in the significant drop in reported fires. Removing more than 5,000 autobins has meant fewer targets for arsonists," Lane said in a statement distributed at a news conference conducted by deputy fire chief Joe Seewald on Wednesday.
Lane wasn't available for comment. A spokeswoman for the city's garbage and recycling contractor said she wasn't surprised by the numbers, identifying the autobins her company removed as ones in Winnipeg's core hardest hit by arson.
"They were in the older areas, in the downtown core where a lot of the multi-family and apartment dwellings are," said Paulina Leung of Emterra, the private waste-management contractor that strategized the campaign with the city. "What has helped reduce the arson, too, was an intense bulk-waste collection program," that was conducted in a 16-week sweep this year and last over the spring and summer, she said.
That rid the inner core of abandoned trash such as mattresses, Leung said.
"What we'd really like to do is expand that intensified sweep to the rest of the city or do it full-time in those areas," Leung said.
"It was a problem the city dealt with with Emterra," said St. Vital Coun. Brian Mayes, "And it's a good-news story for the city."
The councillor acknowledged it was a bit odd to use the fire department to talk about garbage collection in the war on arson. "But what can one say? I'm pleased to see arson is down," Mayes said.
Seewald told reporters it took both arson-prevention efforts and the removal of autobins to get the job done. "Part of it is about garbage bins," said Seewald. "But part of it is about good common sense."
Firefighters took to the streets and the schools in a massive prevention program; officials with the community arson-prevention program went door-to-door to offer tips on how to clean up properties.
"We've been doing a lot of work with the community, with the City of Winnipeg, the department of water and waste, and really what this is about is the power of collaboration (and) public education," Seewald said.
"One year doesn't make a trend, but in 2014, we're tracking pretty much the same as 2013."
The city's top union boss for firefighters offered a nuanced comment in response Wednesday.
"It is tough for me to comment until we examine the stats," said Alex Forrest, president of the United Firefighters of Winnipeg.
Forrest said it's true preventing fires makes a lot more sense than only fighting them.
"I can say this is good news, as we have been putting a ton of effort into education and fire prevention," he said. "Crews battling these fires need a break from the pace of the last few years."
— with files from Aldo Santin
Updated on Thursday, October 9, 2014 at 6:35 AM CDT: Replaces photo