A first look at the Castlegar Fire Department’s latest year-to-date report shows that call volume at the station is up significantly. But CFD Fire Chief Sam Lattanzio says that’s because 2020 was actually a slow year, rather than 2021 being a busy year.
Lattanzio says that in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic calls dropped drastically, especially in the motor vehicle accident category. First responder and medical assist calls were also down significantly in 2020 as dispatch priorities changed under provincial pandemic directives.
“We are back to pre-covid levels now,” says Lattanzio.
Total call volume for 2021 sits at 545 as of the end of August and the fire chief expects the final tally by the end of the year to be similar to 2018 (791) or 2019 (827). In 2020, total calls only reached 625.
There is one category however, that is up this year — actual fires. So far in 2021, there have been 74 fire calls, just two short of the total for all of 2020 and above the yearly totals for the previous three years as well. There were 70 fires in 2017, 68 in 2018 and 57 in 2019.
Right now 2021 has the second highest annual dollar loss total from fire damages at $1.2 million. The highest year for losses was 2013, the year the Catholic Church burned to the ground, at $1.5 million.
False alarm calls continue to be a problem in the city with 48 so far this year. Each of these calls costs the city hundreds of dollars and draws resources to a location where they are not really needed.
The fire chief is reminding businesses and individuals that fines may be levied for repeated false alarms.