SASKATOON -- The Saskatoon Fire Department says it’s seen a spike in fires this year – and some were deliberately set.

“If we were to compare 2019 from January 1 to today’s date versus 2020, we have seen a 30 per cent increase in our fires which would be inclusive of vehicles, dumpsters and structures,” Assistant Chief Yvonne Raymer said.

Thursday night alone, the fire department responded to three different fire calls across the city.

One was at a boarded-up garage in the 100 block of Avenue K South. About 15 minutes later, crews received calls about a semi-trailer on fire in the 100 block of 71st Street West. After that, firefighters responded to a house fire in the 400 block of Avenue V South.

All fires were brought under control quickly and no one was injured, according to the fire department.

Raymer said the fire on Avenue K South was deliberately set. The others are still under investigation.

Out of the department’s 97 fires to date, 45 were incendiary, she said.

On Monday morning, there was another fire at a boarded-up house in the 1600 block of Avenue C North - a property the fire department has been called to numerous times, according to Raymer.

“It’s had 20 fires in the last three years, some were significant and some were small. A lot of them were considered incendiary. This is a trend that started since 2017,” she said.

Raymer said she can’t speak to whether the recent fires in Saskatoon are related to the warmer weather or to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the Saskatoon Police Service (SPS), who sometimes assists with fire investigations, said it does see an increase in fires each year during spring or when the weather warms.

The service said the fires it is investigating are not believed to be connected as evidence suggests they were set by different people.

The SPS adds that it doesn’t believe the fires were set with the intention of harming people.

“For our neighbourhood in general and the people that live in it, that’s very concerning,” said Gill Phillips, a Riversdale resident.

Justin Thompson, who also lives in Riversdale, said, “I’ve noticed more sirens especially since COVID.”

Raymer said there are a few ways people can protect themselves.

“Look at what’s leaning up against any of your structures, especially with the garbage cans, recycle bins. Put them in a secured location in the yard and away from your garage or away from an accessory building or your home.

“They are an opportunity, combustible material being in the blue bin, is definitely something that is easily ignited.”