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Vancouver needs 55 more firefighters to address growing demands, union says

A photo shared online by Chief Karen Fry shows crews at the scene of a fire in South Vancouver on Nov. 20, 2022. (Image credit: Twitter/Karen_Fry) A photo shared online by Chief Karen Fry shows crews at the scene of a fire in South Vancouver on Nov. 20, 2022. (Image credit: Twitter/Karen_Fry)

Vancouver firefighters are sounding the alarm over a lack of resources to address the city’s growing demands for emergency services.

Hours after a three-alarm fire erupted in East Vancouver on Wednesday morning, displacing 10 residents, the union representing local firefighters flagged concerning 2022 data on social media.

Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services responded to more than 65,770 calls last year—including 7,000 related to overdoses—representing an 18 per cent increase in demands since 2018.

“AKA a big problem,” IAFF18, wrote online.

VFRS public information officer Matthew Trudeau says 63,689 calls were made in 2021, up from 41,511 in 2020.

The number of calls has spiked significantly since 2020, when Trudeau says VFRS responded to 41,511.

IAFF18 says the city’s needs have exploded, writing on Twitter “The bottom line is that we need 55 more firefighters this year to serve you safely.”

That’s nearly the number of VFRS members that responded to Wednesday’s fire in the Strathcona neighbourhood. Fortunately, no one was hurt in the blaze, but a total of three houses were destroyed.

Trudeau pointed to a 2018 study by Darkhorse Analytics that recommended hiring 122 firefighters by the end of this year, and noted the department remains 55 positions away from meeting that target

He says the study compared Vancouver with four other Canadian cities—Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa—and found VFRS responded to almost twice as many incidents as its counterparts in 2018.

“VFRS responded to 94 incidents per 1000 residents compared to a range of 26 to 53 incidents per 1000 residents that other large Canadian cities respond to,” Trudeau said.

According to IAFF18, Vancouver’s most vulnerable neighbourhoods is where the fire department is seeing “a huge uptick in need.”

“The volume of fires and red and purple calls was nearly untenable, and neither the member of these communities nor our members can hold on forever,” Vancouver firefighters wrote, referring to the most serious codes for life-threatening emergencies.


Both the municipal and provincial governments are facing calls to invest in Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services further.

“This is the year where we really nee to see the investments happened,” IAFF18 wrote.

Significant staffing shortages are hurting emergency services province-wide. In December, the union representing B.C. paramedics reported nearly half of emergency vehicles in the Lower Mainland were out of service.

According to B.C. Emergency Health Services, 911 dispatchers received 688,390 medical emergency calls in 2022.

With files from CTV News Vancouver’s Alissa Thibault Top Stories

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