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Dumpster program cracks down on furniture fires

The couch fires of Graham Avenue may become a thing of the past.

Three years after implementing a new program to curb road-side couch fires, the Fredericton Fire Department has noticed the number of flaming furniture dropping. Photo: Adam Travis/The Brunswickan

Three years after implementing a new program to curb road-side couch fires, the Fredericton Fire Department has noticed the number of flaming furniture dropping. Photo: Matt MacGillivary/Flicker CC

Three years after implementing a dumpster program for students’ unwanted furniture, the Fredericton Fire Department has noticed that the number of “nuisance fires” on Graham Avenue has dropped significantly.

The program, which began in the fall of 2012, is a joint effort between UNB, STU and the Fredericton Fire Department. It involves the placement of two dumpsters in the student parking lot on Windsor St. for students to throw out their furniture.

“What would happen prior to [the program] would be that people would take [their furniture] to the curb and then other people would come along and light them on fire. So to try to minimize that we put the dumpsters out and so far it’s met with a remarkable success,” said Desmond Dupuis, crime prevention community liaison for UNB Security and Traffic.

In 2012, the Fredericton Fire Department received 32 calls for nuisance fires on Graham Avenue. Last year the number had dropped to five.

The dumpsters are there for students, free-of-charge, in the fall and spring when they are moving.

“[Students] had no way to get large items to the dump so we decided that the best way to help would be to have dumpsters there where they can at least carry them and put them into the dumpster,” said Dupuis.

According to David McKinley, assistant deputy fire chief of the Fredericton Fire Department, furniture burnings are what the fire department considers as incendiary fires: fires set maliciously or mischievously. They are a particular worry to the fire department as they take attention away from other serious fires.

“For us every time we’re out on a nuisance call it takes us away from important calls in case there is an emergency,” McKinley said.

Fredericton resident Nicola MacLeod knows just how dangerous furniture fires can be. In the early morning of Aug. 27 an upholstered chair caught fire on the enclosed veranda of her apartment building, located at the corner of George Street and York Street.

“I was awoken by the fire department pounding on my door one night because the entire side of my building was on fire. So I guess someone in an apartment below had moved out a few days before and they left behind this upholstered chair,” she said.

“So at some point this chair caught fire and the whole patio went out, just went up in flames basically.”

The building sustained only external damage, thanks to the quick thinking of three passersby, who awoke residents and called 911, and the building’s location near to the fire station.

“I guess everyone has heard of the mythological tales of the Graham Street couch fires, so when this first happened to me and I was standing outside my building watching the fire department put out the fire … the first thing that went through my mind was ‘It’s the end of August, students are coming back,’” MacLeod said.

“Fredericton has such a tradition of these types of fires and, whether it was intentional or accidental, it’s all just very unsettling that these things are happening.”

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