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Pandemic impact resulted in 700 fewer service calls for city’s fire departments in 2020

However, the estimated total damage loss due to fires was up $1.5M over 2019
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Greater Sudbury Fire Services reported an estimated $13 million was lost due to fires in the city last year. (File)

Greater Sudbury Fire Services reported an estimated $13 million was lost due to fires in the city last year.

The total estimated loss was an increase of roughly $1.5 million over the 2019 estimate of $11.6 million.

Deputy Fire Chief Jesse Oshell is scheduled to present a report to the emergency services committee on Feb. 17, outlining the activity of the GSFS in 2020.

The fire department reported 26 “major fire loss incidents” last year, each one with an estimated loss of at least $100,000.

The most significant loss reported by GSFS in 2020 was a September fire in the Lockerby area that resulted in an estimated loss of $2.4 million.

An October fire at the Maley Drive Quarry resulted in estimated fire losses of more than $1 million.

The fire department responded to fewer calls for service in 2020 than they did in 2019 by a margin of nearly 700 calls.

There were 3,984 incident responses in 2020, down from 4,676 in 2019.

“2020 call volumes are reduced due to COVID lockdown, including altered service level in Medical Tiered Response to preserve PPE,” said the report headed to the emergency services board.

The most common response type for the fire department for the past two years has been classified as other incidents (assisting other agencies, no incident found on arrival, etc.).

Fire alarm calls have been in a close second in both 2019 and 2020 with 1,141 and 1,020 respectively.

In terms of response to actual fires, GSFS were called to 314 fires in 2020, up slightly from 288 in 2019.

The department saw a decrease in the number of motor vehicle collisions that it responded to, down nearly 200 to 499 in 2020, compared to 689 in 2019.

Greater Sudbury Fire Services did see a bump in response to open air burning calls, likely due to tighter restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2019, the department responded to 207 calls related to open air burning, but 2020 saw that number more than double to 426.

“The Fire Prevention Section was able to maintain the mandated inspections of complaints, requests, and Vulnerable Occupancies throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, conducting over 1,100 building fire inspections,” said the report.

“Fire Prevention experienced an increase in request inspections pertaining to real estate purposes over the last few months of the year.”

COVID-19 presented challenges for the fire department when it came to its public education mandate in regards to fire safety, as face-to-face presentations were replaced with virtual seminars.

“Public Safety Officers have risen to the occasion by providing the community with new relevant fire safety commercials, YouTube videos, and other social media platforms,” stated the report.

“It was identified that there has been an increase in kitchen fires both locally and provincially during the Covid-19 pandemic. Fire Prevention Week messaging focused on fire safety in the kitchen, which could be seen through our commercials that aired on local television channels.”

Fleet upgrades were made in 2020 as the fire department purchased a new ladder truck, three new engines and two new tanker trucks.

The two new tanker trucks are in service at Station 17 Hanmer, and Station 6 Waters. 

The new ladder truck has been delivered, but has not yet been deployed for service as training on the trucks must be completed first.

Three new fire engines are in the building process and are anticipated to be delivered by the fourth quarter of 2021.