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Residents and businesses asked to secure vacant buildings

As the winter weather takes hold, Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services would like to remind residents and businesses of the owner's responsibility to ensure vacant buildings are secure to prevent unauthorized entry. This would include all vacant properties such as residential homes, garages and commercial properties.

There are many of potential risks that can happen when a building is vacant including:

  • fire (accidental or intentional)
  • vandalism and theft
  • bad weather
  • vermin
  • squatters, trespassers

Unsecured buildings are attractive to trespassers as they are able to enter the building undetected. An unsecured building is an easy target for an arsonist and their actions not only damage the primary building but potentially the surrounding buildings and the lives of others.

Vacant buildings are also ideal for vandalizing, thefts or, in some cases, for temporary housing. If someone is living in the building, they may have illegal makeshift heating and cooking practices that are potential sources of fire.

The winter weather can also play a role in risk factors with vacant buildings. One of the main concerns is when owners shut off some or all of the utilities to the building to save money.  If a building has no heat during cold conditions, water pipes and sprinkler systems may freeze and rupture which then causes flooding as temperatures become warmer.

Regardless of the type of occupancy, or the timeframe for which the building is vacant, the National Fire Code – 2019 Alberta Edition (NFC(AE)) has a subsection (Section 2.4.6. and that addresses vacant buildings. The intent is to keep unwanted entry into a vacant building and limit the probability that a fire will occur and spread beyond the building of origin and extend to other buildings.

For more information, residents can contact the Fire Prevention Bureau at 403-320-3811 or  

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