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As Port Moody grows and the climate changes, firefighters are getting busier

More calls and impacts of climate change among the challenges facing Port Moody Fire Rescue
Port Moody firefighter Jeff Scallion does a FireSmart assessment on a home to determine measures to lessen its risk from wildfires. Fire Chief Darcey O'Riordan says the impacts of climate change are putting increasing pressures on the fire department's resources and training requirements.

Port Moody’s firefighters are getting busier.

And they’re only going to keep getting busier says Port Moody Fire Rescue’s (PMFR) chief, Darcey O’Riordan, as the city continues to grow and get more dense.

In a presentation to council of the department’s annual community report on Tuesday (Nov. 22), O’Riordan said, after a lull because of the COVID-19 pandemic, PMFR responded to 31 per cent more incidents in 2021 over 2020’s 1,008 call-outs, and he expects that number to increase yet again for this year.

O’Riordan told the Tri-City News much of that boost is from alarm activations in multi-unit residential buildings and commercial structures as more of those are built.

Changes to ambulance dispatch protocols means firefighters are also attending to more medical calls.

As well, O’Riordan said the effects of climate change are starting to place increasing pressures on fire crews.

In 2021, PMFR assisted wildfire crews in Cache Creek and its zodiac inflatable boat helped rescue 10 people and a dog during flooding in Abbotsford that was caused by an atmospheric river of heavy rain that deluged the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley last November.

Locally, the heat dome in the summer’s early months also generated more calls.

O’Riordan said the increasing frequency of extreme weather is being reflected in the department’s operational planning.

“It may impact our resourcing in the future if these events become more common,” he said, adding the department may have to diversify firefighter training as well as its equipment needs.

Port Moody’s proximity to forest and the sea brings climate change close to home, he said, enhancing the urgency of preventative programs like the FireSmart property assessments it offers to homeowners to determine their vulnerability to wildfires and give them strategies to mitigate risks.

O’Riordan said his firefighters are up to the challenges presented by the city’s growth and a changing climate.

In 2021, they underwent 5,361 hours of training to ensure their readiness of all emergencies, from life-saving medical emergencies to dealing with hazardous materials to plucking people who’ve strayed onto the mudflats at the east end of Burrard Inlet.

He said the city “aspires to be one of the safest communities in Canada.”

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