A consultant’s report on the service levels for the Prince George Fire Rescue Service will be presented to city council at a committee of the whole meeting on March 1.
The report will come after city council's budget process for 2023, which happens on Jan. 30 and Feb.1. On Dec. 14, city council received a similar report regarding RCMP service levels in the city, which found the city needs 19 additional uniformed police officers, 10 additional civilian support staff, an unknown number of additional data entry personnel and a “peer navigator” based in the Prince George Public Library, over the next five years.
“Emergency services are facing substantially higher call volumes,” city director of public safety Adam Davey told council during the Dec. 14 meeting. “What is being prepared is substantial staffing increases for both RCMP and Prince George Fire Rescue.”
Between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30, 2022, Prince George Fire Rescue responded to 8,931 calls for service – more than the record 8,087 calls the department responded to in all of 2021. Between 2015 and 2020, Prince George fire fighters received an average of 5,971.7 calls per year, according to a report presented to the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George board of directors on Dec. 15.
Of the 8,931 calls the department responded to from Jan. 1 to Nov. 30, 2022, 5,385 were medical call-outs, 2,361 were fire-related, 561 were rescues and 624 were administrative.
The fire department responded to 956 calls in November alone, the equivalent of one call every 45 minutes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“The city may have to manage service level expectations,” Davey said. “I am not sure how long we can retain the current service levels.”
Without additional resources, the city may have to cut non-essential services to maintain the department’s core emergency services, he added.
In order to manage the increased workload, the Prince George Fire Rescue Service is analyzing the statistics on a fire hall-by-fire hall level, with the intention of shifting fire hall response zones to level out the number of call outs between halls, a city spokesperson told the Citizen in October.
“This work is in conjunction with the openings of the new fire hall and the identified benefits of its centralized location,” the spokesperson said. “The increased response statistics have resulted in less non-response time shift to shift, which has reduced the time for administrative functions and training.”
In addition to regular training, fire crews conduct commercial building inspections to ensure owners are complying with fire codes, the spokesperson added.
“(Prince George Fire Rescue Service’s) first priority is the safety and wellness of its responding members, ensuring personal protective equipment procedures are reviewed and adhered to,” the spokesperson said. “PGFRS is currently working with a consultant, developing a report for (city) council outlining enhanced training needs, such as a dedicated training facility, and developing a detailed future staffing plan. Each of these is to ensure fire service members are trained and each hall is staffed to provide the professional level of service expected."