Half of firefighter responses in 2014 involved medical issues

Only eight per cent call-outs are for fires

Fewer than 10 per cent of the call-outs for the Abbotsford Fire Rescue Service were related to fires in 2014.

Fewer than 10 per cent of the call-outs for the Abbotsford Fire Rescue Service were related to fires in 2014.

Medical and health issues continue to account for almost half of fire service calls, according to the Abbotsford Fire Rescue Services’ (AFRS) annual report.

The report was presented to council on Monday and showed that about 48 per cent of all responses are attendance at medical-related incidents. A similar figure was recorded in 2013.

About eight per cent of the department’s response is to fires.

In 2014, breathing problems, unconscious/fainting patients, chest pain and motor vehicle accidents were all in the top 10 incidents to which AFRS responded.

Fire crews responded to 6,227 total incidents in 2014. Of the 509 that were related to fires, 60 involved houses, seven were apartments or townhouses, five were industrial, nine commercial, 12 barns, and 93 vehicles. There were 90 illegal fires.

A total of 319 fires resulted in dollar loss and, of those, 65 were deemed to be suspicious; 51 came from ignorance of hazards; 53 from smokers’ materials; 19 from parts failure; and 82 from other causes, such as welding or flying embers.

The fire department continues to focus on education and prevention of fires, hosting public events through the year.

The report states Abbotsford residents pay about $100 per capita for fire rescue expenses. Mission and Chilliwack are both less, at around $75, and Surrey is slightly higher. Langley Township and Richmond both exceed $100 per capita and Burnaby and Coquitlam hit over $150.

While much of fire response is to medical issues, it continues to be less than in some neighbouring communities.

The provincial agency BC Ambulance Service (BCAS) responds to all medical calls, but how fire departments support BCAS is determined by municipalities.

In Abbotsford, firefighters respond to immediate life-threatening injury or illness incidents, while in some other communities in the Lower Mainland, fire departments respond to all incidents to which ambulances respond.

Mayor Henry Braun said that while fire services will always respond to medical issues as needed, the trend is an increase in response.

This issue is compounded by the fact that the city doesn’t have enough ambulances.

“My understanding is that all of our surrounding neighbouring jurisdictions have a higher level of ambulance service than we do.”

He said the city will be asking for a meeting with the province to discuss the issue of ambulance service, adding that he has heard people are sometimes waiting 30 or 40 minutes for an ambulance.