If the numbers keep going the way they are the call volume for the Cobourg Fire Department will have an increased 78% over a two-year period.
Chief Ellard Beaven told the Community Services, Protection, and ?Economic Development Standing Committee on Wednesday, January 10, 2023 that in 2022 there were 1,409 calls for service and in 2023 there were 1914 calls for service and currently in 2024 there are approximately 6.8 calls per day which would equate to approximately 2,500 calls for 2024.
There are four firefighters on a platoon, but because of vacation periods or training, up to 70% of the time a platoon is operating with three firefighters.
Approximately 700 of the 1,914 calls for service in 2023 were medical calls. The rest were activated alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, fires or motor vehicle collisions.
Beaven said there are a lot of calls for alarms activated including carbon monoxide alarms.
“It’s overwhelming specifically to our officers,” said Beaven.
“They’re responding to a call and they’ll receive a simultaneous call. So they are trying to coordinate which call to attend and prioritize.”
Beaven said it’s difficult because firefighters are responding are receiving information from dispatch who is on the phone with the caller.
Because the information may not be totally accurate, “our staff struggle which call to prioritize.”
“And it weighs on them heavy if they ever make the wrong call.”
Cobourg Fire Department has a tiered (mutual) response with Northumberland County Paramedics that is under review to help reduce or prioritize calls better.
Beaven has also asked Council for increased staffing.
“This would alleviate some of the issues and we could respond with two trucks. We could drop off staff at the initial call and respond with some of the platoon, two or three firefighters to the next call, with part-time firefighters to supplement the response.”
With the numbers trending to a nearly 80% increase of calls in the last two years, Beaven said it’s impossible to maintain it given the manpower.
“It’s so difficult our staff are being called in on overtime, if a crew out on Highway 401 for an extended period of time we are bringing in off-duty staff. If it’s during the week, myself, my Deputy Chief and my Chief Training Officer respond to the calls to supplement the initial call or secondary call just to increase the staffing and ensure we’re providing a proper staffing to the citizens of Cobourg.”
Cobourg is a composite fire department which has full-time and part-time members and Beaven said the strain is also felt on the part-timers.
“There is expectations laid out for them. But now when we’re responding to 77% more calls and these people are providing a service for us that have another life, another career, so we are taxing our part-time firefighters as well.”