Coquitlam Fire and Rescue may have seen a small increase in the number of calls in 2010, but it is nothing compared to what is expected in the next few years.
Fire chief Tony Delmonico said the number of calls the department receives annually could come close to doubling in the next several decades, as the city's population rapidly expands.
"We attribute it mainly to population increases," he said. "Our role hasn't changed. We have been identified as a high growth community and we are going to see added pressures because of that."
His comments come after fire statistics for 2010 were released this week. The department responded to 5,838 calls last year, up 1.3% from the 5,764 it received in 2009. The majority of the incidents were medical-related, with crews attending 290 fires, which includes structure fires, vehicle fires and wildland-brush fires. In 2009 crews responded to 309 fires.
Statistics city officials use to make decisions about resources have shown that the department can expect approximately 1,000 calls a year for every 20,000 people living in an area. With more people moving into the city's northeast sector, the city is looking at what fire and rescue resources should be placed in that area. A $40,000 study is determining the design of a station on a piece of property on David Avenue, which would replace the auxiliary station on Coast Meridian Road. Vehicle purchases will also be a big expense for municipal taxpayers, as several ladder and rescue trucks come up for replacement in the next five years.
With increased growth in Coquitlam comes increased possibilities for emergency situations. More roads means more vehicle accidents, more people mean more medical calls and higher towers mean more specialized pumping equipment, Delmonico said.
Fire prevention is a big part of reducing the pressures on the department, he added.
"Our community has some good stats," he said. "We would always like to see it down, and that is the role of our fire prevention."
Port Coquitlam is crediting its fire prevention efforts for reducing the municipalities' overall number of fires and calls. In 2010 the community saw 25% fewer structure fires and emergency crews responded to 20% fewer incidents compared to 2009.
Port Moody has also seen a decrease in its call volume year over year. The department received 1,240 calls in 2010 compared to 1,256 in 2009. The department also responded to 34 fires last year, a drop from the 67 incidents emergency crews responded to in 2009.