Vancouver fire chief orders cleanup of DTES tent city, citing ‘catastrophic’ safety risk

A sprawling tent city on the 100 block of East Hastings Street in Vancouver has been ordered to be cleared.

Vancouver Fire Chief Karen Fry issued the order Friday, warning that construction of structures in the area poses a major safety risk.

“If a fire were to occur in this area in its current state, it would be devastating, endangering lives and endangering hundreds of much-needed housing units,” the City of Vancouver said in a media release. “

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Vancouver has a new tent city. This time it’s in the street, not the park.

Tents and other temporary structures have long been part of East Hastings Street, but since the beginning of July the number of permanent tents and the scale of the encampment have increased rapidly.

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At the same time that Vancouver police have stopped assisting city engineering workers who conduct daily so-called “street sweeps,” the city says it’s important to clean up trash and discarded items, but which includes some neighborhoods. Proponents say that includes targeting homeless people and taking their belongings.

Since then, some residents of the neighborhood have complained of difficulty accessing their buildings or traveling down sidewalks.

Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services will accelerate “structure removal planning” that was already underway to improve road, sidewalk and building access, as well as fire safety, the city said Monday.

Click to play video: 'Man stabbed after tension escalates in East Hastings'

A man has been stabbed after tensions escalated in East Hastings.

Man stabbed after tension escalates in East Hastings – 13 July 2022

“The situation is complex and the City will continue to take a thoughtful approach that considers the needs of evacuees as we do this,” the City said.

“In the coming days, the City will work with the community, non-profit organizations and partner government organizations to expedite the removal of structures and offer additional assistance to those sheltering outside.”

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Daytime collection of personal items, more public washrooms, misting stations and hand-washing and drinking fountains are among the supports offered by the city.

In a statement, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said he supports the order, but recognizes the impact it will have on DTES residents.

“Housing shortages and the recent hot weather are forcing more and more people onto the streets – and along Hastings it’s become dangerous for our most vulnerable neighbours,” Stewart posted on Twitter.

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A man in a wheelchair was stabbed to death as tensions escalated in an East Hastings Street tent city.

“If a fire breaks out under these conditions, the loss of life can be catastrophic.”

Stewart emphasized the city’s partnerships with higher levels of government to fund non-market and modular homes, but acknowledged that demand for affordable and supportive housing is outpacing supply.

“My office is in constant contact with the highest levels of government regarding securing additional resources for additional investment in housing – particularly for those who currently live along Hastings Street,” he said.

“In this particular instance, I also urge non-profit housing providers to review housing availability within their departments.”

While Friday’s order specified the “immediate” removal of the structure, it was not immediately clear when the order would be implemented.

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In an email, Chief Fry said the fire service plans to “work with the city and community to mitigate this threat.”

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