The number of calls for service received by the London Fire Service (LFD) has increased by 22% over the past six years, raising fears that without an expansion of resources, the service “will be challenged to respond to this continued growth”. face of a growing population and a rising urban skyline.
The message is in the department’s new 10-year master plan due to be presented to a city committee next week, outlining the LFD’s “vision, direction and overarching directions” to meet the city’s growing needs by 2032. , a period in which the city’s population is expected to increase by tens of thousands.
“We’re seeing an increase in service calls and part of that is because we’re one of the fastest growing cities in Southern Ontario…We’re also seeing some interesting growth patterns , some of them are considered ‘inwards and upwards’ which can also pose challenges for us,” said London Fire Chief Lori Hamer, referring to the official planning framework for the city.
“What excites me about this plan is that it is a living document, so it is evidence-based and risk-driven for the community, but it also allows us to review and to report annually on what we see.
According to the blueprint, the department received 11,165 calls for service in 2021, an increase of 22% from the 9,177 calls recorded in 2016. (London’s population grew by 10% during this period according to census data.)
The increase can be seen in the number of emergency calls handled by firefighters, which alone have increased by 39% since 2016. In comparison, non-emergency calls have decreased by 22%.
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At least 26% of all calls were for fire alarm activations, while 23% were for medical calls and 13% for rescues, the figures show.
“We are seeing a bit more of an increase in motor vehicle collisions. I think part of it has to do with the fact that we’re seeing an increase in population. Structural fires, we’re seeing a slight increase, but justifiable with what we’re seeing in terms of population growth,” Hamer said.
At least 223 structure fires were attended to by fire crews during 2021, the vast majority of which, 76%, were residential fires. At least 54% of all building fires are the result of unintentional causes, while 16% were started intentionally. The cause of at least 32% of the fires was undetermined.
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The ignition source in 46% of all structural fires was undetermined, while 20% had cooking equipment as the ignition source and 13% had an open flame.
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“I think it’s a testament to the fact that our community fire prevention strategies are working and that we’re going out there and telling people that kitchen fires are the main fire that we’re seeing right now,” Hamer said.
“To raise awareness about this and have our fire prevention inspectors in the community to help educate the public…I think we’ve seen a big change in the stats because of the work fire prevention is doing. fires.
Despite the increase in service calls, figures show that service response times – when fire dispatch is notified of the arrival of crews – have only increased by around 3% during this period. According to the report, the 90th percentile response time in 2021 was six minutes and 16 seconds.
Fire Station 1, located at Colborne and Horton Streets, responded to the most primary calls last year, 2,192, followed by Station 2 on Florence Street east of Egerton Street with 1,208. The station that received the fewest main calls was Station 12 in Byron with 311. The figure does not include assistance calls to help other stations.
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The report notes the growing number of service calls involving air units over the years – 3,454 in 2021 compared to 3,012 in 2017 – which the department attributed to the increasing number of high-rise buildings being built to accommodate the population. growing in the city.
Firefighters estimate that over the next 10 years an additional 15,000 people will live in high-rise multi-residential buildings in the city. Compounding this challenge is the fact that more and more high-rise buildings are being built outside the city centre.
“The distribution of fire apparatus throughout the city must be considered to ensure that elevated (overhead) trucks can respond quickly and effectively to high-rise buildings,” the report said.
Hamer says the department has been monitoring this challenge for several years and says plans have been approved for an additional airline in the city to be stationed at the planned Fire Station 15, which will be built on Hamilton and Old Victoria roads.
Other ongoing challenges the department will face over the next decade, she said, are the city’s large student population and the two freight railroads that run through the center of the city.
“We are working closely with our fire prevention division to ensure that we provide education and training to students who come to London,” Hamer said, adding that the department also continues to partner with CN and the CP Rail” to provide training to be able to deal with emergencies should they occur in the City of London.
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The plan outlines 22 goals to be achieved over the next decade, focusing on fire safety education, fire safety standards and enforcement, emergency response, staff development, and departmental strategic priorities.
Several of the goals are already underway, Hamer says, including:
- Involve fire department personnel in fire prevention and public education efforts whenever possible,
- Work with other partner agencies, such as Middlesex-London Paramedic Services, to reduce response times,
- Form a committee to make recommendations to department heads regarding the deployment and station assignments of specialist and technical rescue teams,
- Continue to utilize current ministry training facility resources while working to “improve the facility’s utilization and potential revenue generation”, while developing a business plan for a new facility, and
- Develop and implement a “Total Wellness Strategy” to ensure the mental and physical well-being of service members.
“It’s an exciting plan because we’ve gone a bit off the beaten path in that we’ve added a whole staff and personal development section as we basically work towards a total wellness strategy for our staff.” , Hamer said.
“For me, that’s just a very important piece because we see the fire service evolve, we continue to evolve with it and that piece of mental health and resilience is so important.”
The department’s 2022 master plan will be presented at next week’s meeting of the Community and Protective Services Committee. It can be read in full here.
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