Vancouver’s downtown eastside firefighters say they’re being stretched to their limits responding to a record number of emergency calls.
The firefighters union is demanding more full-time staff be hired and an additional fire truck.
Firefighters in the downtown eastside say their call volume has doubled as overdose calls skyrocket.
Firehall No.2 responded to 1,255 calls in November alone.
Union president Robert Weeks is calling for an additional medic unit of at least 12 full-time firefighters at a cost of up to $2 million.
“They are having a really difficult time, practically that amount of calls is really difficult to manage, it doesn’t allow us to do all of the other things we are supposed to do in our daily routine for example training.”
Weeks says in the 1980’s there were 160 firefighters on duty at any given time, now it’s 130 despite population growth.
“Emotionally it is also incredibly difficult, and the firefighters down there really as you can imagine having a tough time seeing the carnage that’s created by this fentanyl crisis, and actually feel kind of hopeless and realizing all their efforts are seemingly going in vain.”
The city’s draft 2017 budget shows $120 million for Vancouver Fire and Rescue’s operational budget, up $3 million from this year.
Weeks says it’s an inflationary increase and not enough to keep up with demands caused by the overdose crisis.
Robertson promises resources
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is promising additional resources for cash-strapped firefighters trying to respond swiftly to the overdose crisis plaguing the streets of the downtown eastside.
“We are seeing so many people dying on our streets from fentanyl overdose despite the best efforts and heroism of our firefighters and first responders.”
In a report to council to presented on Wednesday, staff will be recommending an additional Vancouver Fire and Rescue Service Medic unit – a three person crew – and an enhanced mental health support for firefighters and front-line staff.