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Fire department deals with dramatic increase in demands for service

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
March 19th, 2015

The Castlegar Fire Department is being kept busy with almost half again as many calls this year-to-date as over the same time frame in 2014, according to an emergency services report presented to city council at its regular meeting Monday night.

The report indicated that the CFD responded to 104 calls this year so far, as compared to just 70 by this time last year. Of the 12 categories of calls, ranging from false alarms and complaints to fires and Jaws-of-Life rescues, all but three categories saw an increase in call volume, with two showing a decrease and one remaining the same.

When asked to what he would attribute the spike, Fire Chief Gerry Rempel said there’s no way to prove definitively what the cause might be.

“It’s been a busier year in all regards – pretty much everything has increased for us,” he said. “We’re a growing town.”

He said the increase in call volume is not proving problematic for his people.

“We’ve got a good crew – our volunteers like to be busy,” he said. “If they go a couple of days without a call, they think their pager’s not working.”

In other CFD news, a group of nine Castlegar firefighters have finished a new level of training and are just now awaiting exam results to receive certification for NFPA Firefighter Level Two, an internationally recognized accreditation.

“It takes just over two years to get through that, and we have a new group of six who are about two months in,” he said.

In a fire department of roughly 25 volunteers and three full-time chiefs/deputy chiefs, four of them are women, which Rempel says is a peak for Castlegar and about average for municipal fire departments.

“But I’d like to see more,” he said. “They do change the dynamic, and for a lot of calls, for example medical calls involving women, it’s nice to have a female firefighter there. They offer a different perspective, sometimes.

“I think you need a good balance of male/female, junior/senior firefighters, because we rely so heavily on teamwork.”

Finally, Rempel said the animal control officer under his purview is pitting in more patrols at Millennium Park and will continue with added bylaw enforcement in this area.

Of the 104 calls for service answered this year by the CFD, only two have been reportable fires resulting in about $13,000 damage and zero injuries.

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