In 2020, Saanich firefighters responded to 438 fires, 1288 medical calls and prevented more than $150 million in damage. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

In 2020, Saanich firefighters responded to 438 fires, 1288 medical calls and prevented more than $150 million in damage. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

Pandemic meant more blazes, fewer calls for Saanich firefighters in 2020

Department reports preventing $151-million in property damage

In 2020, Saanich firefighters responded to nearly 15 per cent more fires compared to 2019 – likely due to more people spending time at home amid the pandemic – and prevented millions in property damage.

During a 2021 financial planning presentation on March 4, Saanich Fire Chief Mike Burgess gave council a breakdown of the department’s emergency response profile for the previous year.

Last year, firefighters from Saanich’s four fire stations – a temporary fourth station was established at the Pearkes arena in March 2020 to permit social distancing and reduce possible exposure to the virus should a crew member get sick – responded to 3,684 calls – nearly 23 per cent less than 2019.

READ ALSO: Saanich firefighters adjust to COVID-19 while maintaining community connections

“Prior to the pandemic, the department averaged 395 incidents per month (but) when the pandemic hit, call volumes decreased” due to the province’s restrictions on fire departments, Burgess told council.

He said from April to September 2020, COVID-19 public health orders were implemented to strategically reduce the number of medical calls that firefighters in B.C. responded to. This was in an effort to minimize the risk of exposure and cut back on the amount of personal protective equipment used on each call.

Normally, Saanich firefighters respond to high-risk medical emergencies alongside paramedics, but last year, they were only sent to the most serious calls where a patient’s life was at risk. The rest were managed by paramedics.

READ ALSO: Greater Victoria fire departments restrict duties in light of COVID-19

While Saanich firefighters saw fewer medical emergencies, Burgess said the number of calls for fires increased by about 15 per cent as more people were spending time indoors due to the pandemic.

Between September 2019 and September 2020, the most common types of calls received by the department were medical calls (35 per cent), false alarms (19 per cent), fires (12 per cent) and motor vehicle incidents (11 per cent).

In 2020, Saanich firefighters responded to 438 fires, 1288 medical calls and prevented more than $150 million in damage. (Via District of Saanich Draft Financial Plan 2021-2025)

Typically, collisions represent a higher percentage of the total annual calls, but the pandemic kept more people at home and the public health orders reduced the number of crashes, Burgess explained.

READ ALSO: Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay fire reach ‘modern’ service agreement

The department also reported an estimated total fire loss of $4.6-million but the property firefighters managed to save was valued at an estimated $151-million.

To view the Saanich Fire Department’s full budget presentation and learn more about the district’s financial planning process, visit saanich.ca.


@devonscarlett
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

District of SaanichEmergency callsfirefighters

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Downed trees account for the majority of power outages, according to BC Hydro, which plans to spend more money on tree pruning and hazardous tree removal in coming years in the face of changing weather and growing patterns caused by climate change. (Photo courtesy of the City of Langford)
BC Hydro says safety guides tree removal policy

Crown corporation says it will work with property owners wherever possible

(Photo by Mojpe/Pixabay)
Canadian kids extracting record amount from Tooth Fairy

Our neighbours in the U.S. receive slightly less from Tooth Fairy visits

Summer camps held by SEAPARC in Sooke and by West Shore Parks and Recreation are gearing up for a playful season. (SEAPARC photo)
Sooke, West Shore summer camps prepping to welcome youngsters

Registration opening for both day and week-long camps

Sidney council approved a broad package of tax relief measures, but concerns about its timing and effectiveness remain. (Black Press Media File).
President of cannabis company considers legal action against Sidney

Sidney already lost one legal action by another cannabis retailer in summer 2020

A photograph of the real firearm beside the replica firearm seized by VicPD in the early hours of April 18. (Courtesy VicPD)
Police seize loaded firearm, drugs during traffic stop in Victoria

Officers find cocaine, methamphetamine and fentanyl along with loaded handgun

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

Families of two of three workers killed in a train derailment near Field, B.C., in 2019 have filed lawsuits accusing Canadian Pacific of gross negligence. The derailment sent 99 grain cars and two locomotives off the tracks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Families of workers killed in Field train derailment allege negligence in lawsuit

Lawsuits allege the workers weren’t provided a safe work environment

(New Westminster Police)
4 youth arrested after 30-person brawl in New Westminster leaves 1 seriously injured

Police are looking for witnesses who saw the incident take place

South Surrey’s Paul Cottrell, who works with the DFO, tows a grey whale out of Semiahmoo Bay Sunday. (Contributed photo)
Dead whale floating near White Rock towed to shore for necropsy

Animal has been dead since at least April 15

Wickaninnish (Clifford Atleo) plays the drum while singing the Nuu-chah-nulth song on the court steps in Vancouver In a picture from April 2018. Photo credit, Melody Charlie.
Five western Vancouver Island First Nations celebrate legal fishing victory

Court ruling confirms Nuu-chah-nulth fishing rights in case dating back to 2003

Sunday’s storm rocked one of the ferries crossing Kootenay Lake. Photo: Dirk Jonker
VIDEO: Storm makes for wild ferry ride across Kootenay Lake

The video was captured by ferry employee Dirk Jonker

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Toddler marks youngest British Columbian to die related to COVID-19

Child one of eight people to die from virus this weekend

Chakalaka Bar & Grill remains open in defiance of orders from Island Health to close. (Cole Schisler photo)
Island Health seeks injunction against restaurant defying COVID-19 orders

VIHA says Ladysmith-area Chakalaka Bar and Grill also violating water and sewer regulations

Most Read