Calgary fire chief optimistic for 2023 after ‘transition’ year for service – Calgary | PKBNEWS

Calgary’s fire chief says he’s optimistic for the fire department heading into 2023 after another record year for emergency response.

According to Steve Dongworth, the fire department will have responded to approximately 80,000 calls by the end of the year; a jump of 10,000 calls compared to last year.

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“In 2020 and previous years, we hovered around the 60,000 calls per year mark. We jumped to around 70,000 calls last year,” Dongworth told PKBNEWS. “What we anticipate is around 80,000 calls this year.

“We are seeing a growth of 10,000 calls per year. »

Dongworth said the increase can be attributed to an increase of around 20% in fire calls, with more medical calls and accidents on city streets, which the chief attributed to the return of more vehicles on the road after the easing of pandemic restrictions earlier this year.

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According to CFD data, calls per 1,000 Calgarians rose to 55.2 from 49.5 last year.

The fire chief also noted a growing trend of social unrest calls in 2022.

“People experiencing homelessness, mental health and addictions, and we’re often the first on the scene with those people when they need help,” Dongworth said.

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Tragically, this year has also seen the fire department respond to seven fatal fires after suffering none in 2021.

Dongworth said it’s a trend firefighters will continue to monitor and work on advocacy and public education about fire prevention.

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Ongoing challenges within Alberta’s health care system and ambulance wait times have also resulted in continued pressure on the fire department, which is often now first on the scene.

“We were able to help, to some extent, especially the most serious patients, by spending time with those patients until the paramedics arrived or, on some occasions, taking them to the hospital with the paramedics. appropriate advice from a physician,” Dongworth said.

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Dongworth described 2022 as a “transition year” for firefighters, with the lifting of pandemic health measures, an increase in mental health and overdose calls, and increased funding for the department from the city council in the budget. of four years.

The budget, approved by the board in late November, calls for a $33 million funding increase for CFD over the next four years.

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It also includes $73 million in capital funding to support construction of new fire stations and maintenance of the fleet.

The board also included an additional $10 million for the fire department when it took money from reserves and surplus funds to fund multiple civic partners for 2023.

District 12 Com. Evan Spencer said the council understood the difficulties facing the fire service during a tour of fire operations earlier this year, following several budget adjustments which resulted in cuts to the budget of the fire departments. firefighters.

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“They ended up bearing the brunt of some pretty big cuts, so they were really in a tough spot, and that became clear on various occasions,” Spencer told PKBNEWS.

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The funding will allow the fire department to hire more than 184 firefighters over the next four years and bring two medical response units back downtown.

According to Dongworth, the main downtown fire station receives about 10 percent of the department’s entire call volume, more than half of which are medical calls.

The chief said the funding will also increase resources to four firefighters on each of the department’s ladder trucks to improve the time it takes to form an “effective firefighting force.”

This consists of two fire trucks, an aerial truck and a minimum of 12 firefighters for a major fire.

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“We’re almost 14 minutes away from a target of 11 (minutes),” Dongworth said. “It has a real impact on community safety, with us being able to protect property and the safety of firefighters.”

Dongworth said the new money in the budget will also help maintain firefighter resources to cover training and reduce the amount of overtime the department pays to cover shifts.

Increased city council funding is one of the reasons Dongworth said he was optimistic heading into the new year.

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However, the chief added that the men and women in the department are also a reason why he feels confident.

“That’s what excites me every day,” Dongworth said.

“The work our people do where they go above and beyond with compassion – in addition to the skill they show to do the job – the compassion and care they show Calgarians who are having a bad day, if not the worst day of their lives.”

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