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22 fires in 24 hours: Vancouver firefighters continue seeing record-breaking number of calls


Vancouver firefighters were called to 22 fires in 24 hours this week as the department continues to respond to record-breaking demand for its services.

On Wednesday, Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services provided some details about the previous day's work, offering a snapshot of what crews are facing as they respond to an ever-increasing number of calls.

Two people were injured in house fires during that period, one suffering burns to 14 per cent of their body and another whose hands were burned when they were trying to put a fire out. There were nine calls about rubbish being set on fire, and four intentionally set dumpster fires. There were seven calls to SRO buildings due to smoking, fires from e-bike batteries, and cooking fires. Firefighters also responded to- multiple medical emergencies and helped to deliver a baby.

VFRS spokesperson Matthew Trudeau says calls are up 25 per cent compared to last year, and that calls to the department have doubled since 2019.

"There's no doubt about how busy we are. We're breaking records for total calls, for fires, for overdoses," he told CTV News.

"We're going to a lot more fires in total and bigger fires as well."

Trudeau says calls to Downtown Eastside SROs account for a lot of the increase in demand – not only because these fires are more frequent but because they are more complex and require a lot of resources to be marshalled in response.

A fire in one of these buildings typically gets a first-alarm response, which means at least 10 trucks are sent, he explains, saying these fires are "high risk" because of both the condition of the buildings and the vulnerability of the residents. In one recent example, Trudeau says, crews were fighting a fire in a room in one of those buildings and found the resident had overdosed and had to provide life-saving care in a smoke-filled hallway.

The steady increase in calls means more work and more risk for individual firefighters and crews, putting more strain on their physical and mental health. But Trudeau also said there are less obvious ways the department is impacted. More calls mean more wear and tear on vehicles and equipment, they also mean more fire inspections are required.

"We're now going to calls each day in the hundreds. That's turning into an average shift in the city of Vancouver for our firefighters," Trudeau said.

"This demand keeps increasing on our crews, year over year and even month over month."

In 2022, the department responded to more than 65,000 calls – which works out to an average of 178 per day. Top Stories

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