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Fire service sees calls increase by nine per cent
RCMP reports decline 13.6 per cent; bylaw spending more time at city library

Shane Magee
Northern News Services
Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Yellowknife fire service ended the year with a nine-per-cent increase in calls compared to the year before, city data shows.

NNSL photo/graphic

Yellowknife firefighters saw calls for service increase nine per cent in 2016 compared to the year before, largely driven by increasing medical calls. Here, firefighters respond to a call at Northern Heights Condominium ast year. - Shane Magee/NNSL photo

There were a total of 4,683 service calls to the fire department in 2016. The single-digit increase follows a jump of 28.4 per cent between 2014 and 2015.

Much of the increase has been driven by climbing medical calls. Last year saw 3,775 calls compared to 2,827 in 2013.

The fire department responds to fires, hazmat situations, car crashes and operates the city's ambulance service.

The increasing call volume has been taking a toll on the city's contingent of 24 full-time firefighters, a report presented to council last fall stated.

"Any time we see an increase in call volume, it means our guys are going to be busier throughout the day. The more that they're out of the (fire) hall, the less work they can do for training and maintenance," said Dennis Marchiori, the city's director of public safety who oversees the department and bylaw enforcement division.

The rising volume of calls is in part why city councillors voted last month during budget talks to hire four more full-time firefighters starting in July at a cost of about $222,000.

Last year, Marchiori said calls reporting intoxicated people was driving the increase in medical calls.

He linked the increase to a shift in the way RCMP respond to intoxicated people.

"I think we're getting more calls directly ... from people that used to call the RCMP," he said in July.

Police see drop in calls

Meanwhile, RCMP data provided to city council monthly and compiled by Yellowknifer indicates there was a 13.6 per cent decline in overall calls for service compared to 2015.

There were 12,379 total violations last year compared to a recent peak of 18,176 in 2013, RCMP data indicates.

Increases last year were recorded in assaults - from 766 to 853 - while decreases were logged in homicide, break and enters, thefts and drug calls. The number of times a someone was held in police detention cells declined from 2015, from 5,067 to 3,161.

More time at library

The city's bylaw enforcement officers had 643 calls for assistance at the Yellowknife Public Library last year compared to 175 in 2015, councillors were told at a committee meeting Jan. 16.

Doug Gillard, the manager of the bylaw division, said bylaw officers proactively patrol the library - recording that as a call - and respond when needed. He said there is a large number of people banned from the library on 49 Street above the Centre Square Mall because of their previous behaviour. When one of those people come to the library, he said staff call bylaw officers for help and wait for them to arrive and deal with the person. By the time the officer typically gets there, the person has left on their own, Gillard said.

Coun. Adrian Bell asked if the city assigns an officer as security for the library and was told it used to.

Gillard said the officer's role changed when more parking meters were installed - meters that the officers have to collect money from.

"It's way too much for one person to deal with, so we need the staff to deal with that," Gillard said of the change collection.

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