As the town gets bigger, the demands on Niagara-on-the-Lake’s emergency services are growing.
NOTL Fire and Emergency Services is reporting that in 2022 it responded to 2.3 per cent more emergency calls than it did in 2021.
Call volume has gone up 11 per cent in the last five years, according to a report to council Tuesday night.
This is partially due to a nine per cent increase in the town’s population, the report said.
“We want to maintain the volunteer model for as long as absolutely possible,” said Fire Chief Jay Plato when asked about the viability of NOTL’s voluntary approach to emergency services.
In 2022, the department received a total of 740 calls,
Of those, 228 were medical calls, 177 were for fire alarms, 141 were for car accidents, 81 were for rescues and emergency assistance, 70 were for actual fires and 43 were for carbon monoxide incidents.
Plato said his department focuses more on prevention than on responsive action.
“Having citizens take on the understanding to try to prevent fires just helps us overall as a fire service,” he said.
That is why the fire department actively conducts fire inspections. In the last year, it conducted 332 inspections. Short-term rentals accounted for 138 of them.
The fire department also reviewed 144 special events for fire safety.
The need for fire safety inspections and other preventive activities has gone up 17 per cent compared to 2021, according to the staff report.
The report said the fire chief is looking for ways to prevent “staff fatigue” without compromising the current level of service.
The department has lost staff because of transfers to neighbouring towns and Plato said the service does what it can to attract and maintain staff.
The town’s high cost of living can be a deterrent but Plato said the department works hard to make NOTL an attractive option for volunteer firefighters.
“We’ve never had somebody leave because they’ve just said this isn’t for them. We’ve had people leave just because of their own life circumstances,” he said.