Whitehorse Fire and Protective Services have released figures for 2021 showing the department responded to 731 calls in 2021, 53 more calls than it did in 2020.
Fire Chief Jason Everitt said the figures, which are broken down by call types, were expected though there were some significant changes in a few categories.
Among them the number of calls to grass/rubbish fires dropped from 112 in 2020 to 67 in 2021, while major upswings saw 47 more calls to assist other agencies (81 calls in 2021 compared to 34 in 2020) as well as 32 more calls for fire alarms being activated without fires happening (240 such alarms in 2021 compared to 208 in 2020).
Looking at each, Everitt explained the decrease in grass fires likely came due to environmental factors given the wet spring the city saw in 2020.
Meanwhile, the large increase to assist other agencies was largely due to a request from Emergency Medical Services for more assistance from the fire department. As Everitt explained, EMS looked at its call volume and the impacts being faced due to COVID-19 and made the request for greater ability to call on the fire department for help.
While Everitt made it clear the fire department is limited in how it assists EMS (it cannot provide medical services, for example), there are a number of ways it can support the agency and works to do so as capacity allows. Everitt said when the request came from EMS, the department looked at it and decided it could assist. As he pointed out, all emergency responders want to do everything they can in the interest of public safety and this is one way to provide that.
“We’ve been able to absorb this into our operations,” Everitt said.
As for the fire alarms without fires, he noted there are a number of reasons for those calls.
While there are always going to be issues of people pulling fire alarms without reason, he also cited issues where system maintenance or testing happens and building owners or managers may forget to inform the fire department that it will be happening. In other cases a building alarm might sound due to things like burning food where there is no fire and it’s dealt with quickly, but still requires a response from the department.
“Each one of these requires a response,” he said.
Other figures detailing everything from rescues to gas leaks and more show changes of anywhere from two fewer to an additional 13 calls in 2021 compared to 2020.
Everitt said while the more detailed annual report will be released in a month or two, he wanted to ensure the initial information was available so the public can see what the department does over the course of the year.
Officials from city departments will be reviewing data from the year to look at how it can make changes to bring numbers down. As Everitt pointed out, in some cases it may result in more preventative programs delivered through the fire department, while in other cases (for example, where there may be a lot of collisions at a certain intersection) it may mean working with the engineering department to consider changes to road design that could improve safety.
“The data drives everything we do,” Everitt said.
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