First response topped the list of emergency callouts in the regional fire department again last year. The number of calls alone topped 1,650 with 979 of those being first responder incidents.
“We are doing a lot of first responder calls in support of the BC Ambulance Service and I don’t see that going away anytime soon,” says Regional Fire Chief Terry Martin. “Because those folks are extremely busy and we are just there to assist them in any way we can when we are called.”
And like the past few years, the second highest number of emergency calls were for alarms and the third, motor vehicle incidents (MVI), which totalled 169. December had the highest call volume of both first response cases, 97, and the highest number of MVI-related calls, 24, according to the Kootenay Boundary Regional Fire Rescue year-end summary.
The fire chief recently presented statistics for November and December to the East End Service directors, as well as specifics from the 2016 Trail Fire Dispatch report.
He noted an increase in serious motor vehicle incidents in the last two months of the year.
“This was due to the change in weather which provided extreme winter driving conditions at times,” Martin said. “The local highways contractor has provided an excellent service to date with maintaining the roads but we all must slow down and drive according to the conditions of the highways.”
The majority of MVI calls are usually between Rossland and the Paulson Bridge, said Martin, noting this season crews have been receiving more motor vehicle emergencies on Highway 22 toward Genelle.
“For whatever reason, I think people were caught off guard,” he added. “The number has decreased since last month and we had no calls today (heavy snowfall Tuesday night and Wednesday). So people have obviously transitioned into the winter driving mode, and it’s a lot better this month.”
Coming in at number four were 62 reports of “burn complaints.” Interestingly, the highest call volume of burn complaints, 10, was in October.
“Someone could be burning something in their backyard for instance,” explained Martin. “Such as in the City of Trail where they are not allowed, or a burn complaint could be someone burning a slash pile on their property. They may have a registration number, but we still have to go and investigate.”
These incidents do not include reports of smoke or wildfires, which numbered 38 and 35 respectively.
“What stands out this year is that we didn’t have a lot wildland, grass, or forest fire-type incidents because of how the summer went,” Martin said. “This call volume shows a fairly busy year with 1,651 calls, but it was a relatively quiet year.”
Regional fire rescue covers a vast territory that spans west to Paulson Bridge on Highway 3, east to the junction of the Castlegar turn-off (Bombi) on Highway 3B, and north from Trail to China Creek.
Fourteen career fire fighters, one training officer and approximately 103 paid on-call fire fighters provide fire protection and prevention services to a population of just under 20,000 living from Rossland to Trail and out to the Beaver Valley, including and Areas A & B of the regional district. Additionally, the fire department is a dispatch center responsible for 38 fire halls throughout the Regional District of Central Kootenay and the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary.
“We are very happy with the numbers (of paid on-call) right now,” said Martin. “We can use a few more in each hall, but the numbers are going up.”