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Prince George Fire Rescue Service facing surge in calls

Fire fighters have received more calls in the first nine months of 2022 than in a typical year.
Prince George Fire Hall
The new Prince George Fire Hall No. 1 began providing services in January 2021.

In the first nine months of 2022, the Prince George Fire Rescue Service received almost 17.5 per cent more calls than it typically gets in a normal year.

Between 2015 and 2020, Prince George fire fighters received an average of 5,971.7 calls per year, according to a report going before the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George board of directors on Thursday. Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30 this year, Prince George firefighters had already received 7,014 calls.

The fire department received 800 calls in September alone, and is on pace to top the record 8,087 calls they received in 2021.

From Jan. 1 to Sept. 30, the Prince George Fire Rescue Service had received 4,293 medical calls, 1,810 fire calls, 424 rescue calls and 487 administrative calls. Over the same period last year, the fire department had received 5,676 calls – 3,268 medical, 1,571 fire, 467 rescue and 370 administrative.

In an email, a spokesperson for the City of Prince George said the numbers reported out in the regional district report represent new records created – both incident responses and administrative records.

“Generally, these stats reflect a real increase in the number of calls for service,” the spokesperson said. “Medical aid calls have definitely increased, along with burning complaints, rescues, and a steady increase in both commercial and residential fire alarms. The opioid crisis has resulted in an increase in medicals. Structure fires, motor vehicle incidents and HAZMAT incidents have seen a slower increase or remained flat.”

With the heightened awareness about wildfire risks, it appears more citizens are calling to report when they see smoke or small fires, the spokesperson said.

“Many citizens took to recreational activities during COVID; this increase in personal wellness also resulted in an increase in risky activity and thus an increase in rescue responses,” the spokesperson said. “It (also) appears more citizens are protecting themselves with alarm systems as we are seeing an increase in residential alarms; almost all of them are resulting from shower steam or cooking setting of the alarm.”

An increase in the number of multi-family buildings means more Prince George residents are living in buildings which have alarm systems, and many may have a private security system in their suite as well.

In order to manage the increased workload, the Prince George Fire Rescue Service is analysing 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.

“This work in 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."

The Regional District of Fraser-Fort George provides centralized fire dispatch services for the Prince George Fire Rescue Service. A five-year, $11.2 million contract to provide the service will be going before the regional district board on Thursday for approval.