Fire alarms triggered 28 per cent fewer responses by the Chilliwack Fire Department in 2011 compared to the previous year, which officials say is directly attributable to a bylaw passed last spring.
Last April, CFD chief Rick Ryall reported to council that nearly onethird of all department responses the previous year were to fire alarms. Ryall noted that of 717 residential security alarms between 2007 and 2011, just five were the result of smoke or fire in the house.
That prompted city hall to pass a bylaw that gave alarm companies the ability to call residents within 90 seconds of a fire alarm being triggered and ensure that the situation was under control.
Last year, the fire department responded to 144 fewer fire alarms than the previous year, according to the CFD's annual fire report, which Assistant fire chief Ian Josephson said the bylaw had an immediate impact.
"The bylaw came into effect in April and by June we began seeing a decrease in the number of singlefamily [house] alarms," Josephson told the Times.
Previously liability issues forced fire alarm companies to contact the fire department without checking on the homeowners.
"Essentially, if Mrs. Brown burns her toast, she can call the monitoring company, or they can call her, and clear it up," said Josephson. That saves the fire department money and reduces the likelihood that firefighters will be attending to a false alarm when a real blaze breaks out.
FAR FEWER BURNING COMPLAINTS
Burning complaints also dropped substantially in 2011 from the previous year. Josephson and the annual report attributes the 13-per-cent drop to increased enforcement and education.
Other highlights from the annual report:
The overall number of fire department responses was down slightly from 2010. Firefighters responded to a total of 2,149 calls for service, down from 2,228 the previous year. Of those calls, Chilliwack's paid-oncall firefighters assisted in 31 per cent of those, with the busiest firefighting unit based out of Hall No. 1 on Cheam Avenue;
One hundred twenty paid-on-call (POC) firefighters worked a total of 18,950 hours for Chilliwack. At an average hourly rate of $22.58, the city city spent $428,062 on POC firefighters;
The city purchased a $666,304 water tower apparatus and pumper engine;
The most common cause of residential fire in Chilliwack is deemed to be "electrical." Eleven such fires were reported in 2011. Other common causes of fire are, in order of frequency: smoker's materials (eight fires); cooking (six fires); arson (five fires); torch/heat guns (four fires); and driers (three fires);
Fire caused $4 million of damage last year, up marginally from $3.93 million in 2010, but still the secondlowest damage toll since 2004;
The actual operating cost of the CFD worked out to $4.8 million in 2011, for a per capita cost of $58.54. In 2008, the city spent $3.61 million on firefighting;
The department reported no fatalities and 16 fire injuries in 2011, none of which included firefighters.