While there was a marked increase in calls to public assists, hazmat scenes, and vehicle fires last year, the overall call volume at the regional fire department actually dropped more than 15 per cent.
However, it’s important to clarify that the decrease of 316 calls is mostly related to first responder dispatches, and a direct result of a change in protocol by BC ambulance.
Those revised procedures dropped the number of assists from the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) fire rescue to 836 first responder calls, compared to 1,094 of those same type of incidents the year previous.
“The big change over 2018 was the decrease in call volume related to the changes in emergency medical services dispatch protocol implemented by BCEHS (British Columbia Emergency Health Services Commission) in the spring of 2018,” Fire Chief Dan Derby explained. “Resulting in a 24 per cent decrease in first responder calls.”
In all, the fire department call volume totalled 1,548 compared to 1,864 in 2017.
Besides 258 less first responder calls, another incident type that notably dropped was attendance at motor vehicle incidents (MVI). The regional crew assisted with 143 MVI calls in 2018, compared to 203 the year previous.
Another overall decrease was related to structure/wildfire incidents, with those 9-1-1’s collectively dropping from 92 calls in 2017, to 79 last year. Firefighters responded to 44 structure fires and 35 wildland fires in 2018, the most memorable of the latter being an aggressive fire behind the regional hospital that made news across the province on Sept. 11, and temporarily closed the road to patients and staff.
Of note, is how that wildfire exemplified the effectiveness of coordinated emergency responses between regional emergency services, the city, BC ambulance, police officers and Interior Health. No one was hurt, outlying medical centres stayed open late, no structures were affected, and access to the Trail hospital was re-gained after midnight.
Other than that, the breakdown reveals fairly static call outs for incidents such as alarms and rescues. Further to Derby’s annual statistics report, compared to 2017, his numbers reveal 36 more calls for ‘public assist,’ 12 additional responses to vehicle fires, and an increase of 25 hazmat-related incidents.