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Sidney fire department broke ‘all’ records for calls in 2022. But why?

Other factors cited by fire chief include end of COVID-19 restrictions, higher density and climate change
Sidney Volunteer Fire Department Chief Brett Mikkelsen says the department has never been busier with calls up some 25 per cent in 2022 over historic peak in 2018. (Town of Sidney/Submitted)

Sidney Volunteer Fire Department Chief Brett Mikkelsen said the department has never been busier.

“This year (2022) has broken all of our records with respect to the number of calls we have attended,” he said. “Previously, the most, just before COVID, which was in 2018, we attended 886 calls. As of now, we are at 1,188.”

That amounts to a 25.2 per cent increase, he added.

So what accounts for the increase?

“It’s kind of everything across the board,” he said. “I can’t point to anyone particular call type. But there is an increase in medical calls, particularly with challenges to the ambulance service. That’s being felt all across the province, not nearly as severely here as in other places in the province, but it definitely has an effect.”

Sidney’s growing density also play a role.

“We have added probably close to 800 to 1,000 dwelling units in the town since 2017,” he said. “Those are all occupied, those are alarmed, those all have potential issues.”

The perceived (or genuine end) of the COVID-19 pandemic is also a factor.

“With COVID (restrictions) ending, everybody is now out and about, so there was bit of a suppression (of calls) during COVID.” This decrease happened across all departments, he added.

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Mikkelsen also pointed to the changing climate.

“Climate change is very much real,” he said. “So obviously, whether it is a heat emergency or these severe cold events, that is a huge driver of calls, whether it is broken pipes, heat exposure for elderly folks - it’s a whole raft of things.”

The ebbs and flows of homeless individuals coming through Sidney also contributes to what Mikkelsen calls an “uptick” in call volumes.

While the department will receive more specific information about specific categories of calls later, Mikkelsen already sees a larger pattern ahead.

“I hope this year is bit of an aberration, a blip, but in reality, this is likely the new normal.”

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