'The stuff you see on a daily basis, it's not normal': A night inside Vancouver's busiest fire hall
This is the final story in a three-part series following Vancouver’s police, paramedics, and firefighters.
Fire Hall No. 2 on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is the busiest in the city, and arguably the busiest in Canada. And the number of calls for help keeps rising.
In December, the hall saw 1,600 calls for service – 600 more than the average for the second-busiest hall and about 1,100 more than the city's other stations.
Lt. Dale Maffie has been a firefighter for 18 years, and currently serves as an officer on the Hall No. 2 medic truck. He said because of the intensity of the job, firefighters can only be stationed at the hall for about a year, before moving to another location.
“Anywhere from eight to 10 months in, you start getting pretty jaded,” he said.
“The stuff you see on a daily basis… it’s not normal, so our brains have a hard time coping with what’s going on sometimes.”
CTV News spent a night alongside firefighters from the city's busiest station.
The first call was a tripped smoke alarm. Within seconds, the crew of four was loaded into the rig, driving with lights and sirens blaring to a nearby single-room occupancy building. It only took a few minutes to determine the scene was safe, someone had been smoking in a hallway.
Due to its location, the hall responds to a high number of overdoses, with these calls representing 22 per cent of all medical incidents.
CTV News was taken to two calls on the night of the ride-along, both inside SRO buildings.
The first call was canceled once crews arrived because paramedics had already arrived. The second involved a 30-year-old man on methadone, a powerful opioid, he said he was feeling extreme body chills and pain.
When crews arrived he was alert but agitated. This particular building was “one of the nicer ones” according to crew members, though inside the unit there were still bed bugs and cockroaches. Through his mask one of the medics began to smell something burning. The man had been cooking a pizza before he collapsed.
It wasn’t long before paramedics arrived and the man was taken in an ambulance to St. Pauls Hospital.
There was also a small fire that had started across the road, someone was burning something in an alley. It was easy for crews to extinguish this one but other outdoor fires have been a growing problem.
These types of fires in 2022 increased five per cent from 2021, but are up 78 per cent from 2019. The biggest concern with outdoor fires is they can quickly spread to buildings and that there's a danger smoke alarms on the inside won’t be activated until it’s too late.
Firefighters are also sounding the alarm about a worker shortage. The union says 55 more firefighters are needed to serve the city safely.
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