Fire destruction in the city created more than $5.9 million in financial loss and property damages throughout 2021, Prince Rupert Fire Rescue announced, on Jan. 13.
“It seems like a shocking figure, but when you look at what was saved, it equals hundreds of millions in property value being saved by the firefighters,” Chad Cooper, deputy fire chief of PRFR, told The Nothern View on Jan. 13.
The estimated figure includes structures damaged by fire, boats, vehicles, personal property, repairs and replacements of goods or income.
The deputy fire chief said there was nothing specific and no recognized pattern during the past year that fire victims could have done to prevent such losses.
“There will always be fires, whether it be mechanical, electrical or such, ” he said.
The number of emergency calls the PRFR attended in 2021 increased to 1562 from 1052 in 2020, which is a significant increase, Cooper said.
“The reduction of calls in 2020 was due to the provincial health order which restricted the fire departments’ exposure to medical calls,” he added.
There will be a direct link for that time period to paramedic and ambulance dispatches increasing in numbers. A two-month health restriction was also placed in 2021, which would affect the overall numbers for both first responding agencies again.
“So ultimately, fire departments are here to fight fires. We just kind of triage, keeping ambulance crews exposed to medical calls and fire just strictly for fire.”
Fire crews in the city responded to 14 working structures fires, 11 vehicle fires, three marine fires, and 763 medical calls in 2021, with the balance for various other issues such as carbon monoxide or false alarms.
Despite it being a busy year, there was only one reported injury to a firefighter with a broken hand, and for a third-year running, no deaths related to fire in the city.
With hiring three more firefighters earlier in the year, the four crews are now balanced with five fully trained professionals each shift. Shifts are 10 hour days and 14 hour nights.
A team of eight emergency dispatchers, four full-time and four part-time, located at the Prince Rupert fire hall allocated and assigned more than 7,500 emergency calls in 2021, which was up from the 5,100 in 2020.
Copper explained that all 911 calls in the area are answered by team members in the city. Fire calls are immediately dispatched, with calls for police being transferred through Prince George RCMP and ambulance calls re-routed through Kamloops.
The fire direct-dispatch is a benefit to the city, Cooper said, because wider known colloquial place names are recognized and can be found easily, whereas other first responders require a specific street address to dispatch the calls from out of town.
“Firefighters had a busy year with training in confined spaces, fire strategy tactics, firefighter survival and fire instructions,” Cooper said.
With some friendly competition between the crews and assistance from computer-aided dispatch, 2021 goals of reducing turnover times for calls were reached. Teams were able to reduce call response time by two minutes.
“We’ve got to be mindful of burnout within the firefighters, but overall the crews are amazing. They love responding to calls. Boredom can be a morale killer in a firehouse,” the deputy chief said. “We train thoroughly and want to do our craft of firefighting. Each one of the Prince Rupert firefighters has hundreds of hours of training each year.”
“I think our guys are more prepared than ever for 2022,” the deputy chief said. “They are at an all-time high with their confidence and abilities.”
K-J Millar | Journalist
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