A house fire on Feb. 28 in Abbotsford. Firefighters are pushing for the city to hire more people so they can increase the number of firefighters available at any time in Abbotsford. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)

A house fire on Feb. 28 in Abbotsford. Firefighters are pushing for the city to hire more people so they can increase the number of firefighters available at any time in Abbotsford. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)

Abbotsford firefighters sounding alarm over lack of resources

While calls have more than doubled over 10 years, hiring hasn’t kept up with that pace

Abbotsford firefighters are sounding the alarm over their lack of available resources.

The Abbotsford Fire Fighters Association & Charitable Society has been becoming more vocal about being understaffed recently. They want to see the number of available firefighters on duty increased to levels in similar-sized cities. And after another one of their own was hurt fighting a fire on Sept. 12, they took to their Facebook page to speak out again.

“Firefighters are getting hurt and experiencing near misses,” they wrote. “Property loss is occurring, directly resulting from being understaffed. Our life safety is important. YOUR life safety is important. Simply put, we’re seeing the results of falling behind. Now is the time for the city to recognize it needs to catch up.”

They explain that the fire involved a house and a nearby shop, and their crews were working to contain the fire and protect neighbouring buildings.

“Again, this fire was under resourced and resulted in a firefighter being transported to hospital,” they said. “This marks our fourth member admitted to (Abbotsford Regional Hospital) this year. Occurrences such as this are becoming more common, which is unacceptable.”

The firefighter was released in healthy condition.

The society has also released some Abbotsford fire statistics. Halls here have already attended 10,000 calls this year, which they say puts them “on pace for 14,000 this year.”

Fire fighting guidelines exist that stipulate what levels of staffing and equipment are considered safe. At any one time, Abbotsford has 18-20 firefighters on the clock, out their roster of 107 full-time members. That’s just a few more than in 2009, when the fire department was dealing with half the number of calls.

To illustrate the problem, they shared an infographic that compares the 2021 numbers to 2009, when there were 16 firefighters on duty around the clock.

In 2009, they report, there were about 137,000 residents and just over 6,000 calls. Last year, the population had risen to 165,000 people and the calls had doubled to 12,600.

From 2011 to 2021, they report that the incident call volume in the City of Abbotsford has increased 192 per cent.

They want to see the hiring, which is approved and funded through the city, increased to match the increase in population and call outs.

“Too often, trucks are tasked out at an incident and unable to respond initially to a structure fire,” the society says. “These scenarios are unsafe for citizens and firefighters alike.”

The society has also been sharing their stats with current council members and council hopefuls on social media, hoping to get their attention during this election.

READ MORE: Insurance industry representative calls for better B.C. flood mapping


@CHWKcommunity
jessica.peters@abbynews.com

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