Fire inspector addresses hazards at growing tent city in Saanich
Members of the Saanich Fire Department and Saanich Police enforced requirements of two separate orders at a growing tent city in Saanich. Tuesday, June 19, 2018. (CTV Vancouver Island)
The sound of weed whackers and ride lawnmowers dominated the air at Saanich’s growing tent city Tuesday.
Parks staff were out in force, trying to make the Regina Park encampment less of a fire danger.
Also present were members of the Saanich Fire Department and Saanich Police, enforcing requirements of two separate fire inspection orders issued to campers.
The orders, issued on June 8 and June 15, identify fire hazards including tall grass that had not been removed, and tents placed too closely to each other or to wooden fences at nearby homes.
With temperatures soaring, enforcement of the order was deemed a priority.
The efforts of the fire department were generally well received by campers. Encampment spokesperson Chrissy Brett welcomed the removal of the tall grass.
“I have to really thank Saanich Parks Department and Saanich Fire Department and Saanich – parts of their community policing department – for listening to our request for that help to make the camp safer for our campers and our community," she said.
Brett said she’s confident the campers will be able to comply with the terms of the inspection orders.
“I think achieving some of the fire department’s concerns…are things that can be met," she said.
But she bristled when asked whether the inspection orders might be part of a larger strategy by the municipality to move the campers out of the area.
“I would hope that in this day and age they would truly be concerned about people's well-being and safety," said Brett. "We’re dropping the most concerning things off the top of the list first in our community just like tent city at the courthouse was willing to work with authorities to make things safer.”
The District of Saanich issued a release Tuesday clarifying that the enforcement action had nothing to do with trying to get campers to move on.
“This current Fire Inspection Order enforcement is intended to address urgent and discrete risks to public safety and the enforcement is not intended to address the broader issue of the illegal occupation of the park," it said. "The district continues to work towards a resolution of the illegal encampment upon the park property.”
Brett said there are now 77 tents in Regina Park, which is located right off the Trans-Canada Highway near Uptown Mall.
She maintained the campers will not leave until there is more affordable housing and a homeless shelter built in Saanich.
She pointed out a buildable shelter waiting to be opened that was donated to the encampment by a private citizen. She said the shelter will be raffled off for use at the park to a camper in the coming days.