Prince Albert Fire Department sees increase in calls in 2023

Prince Albert Fire Department photo. Members of the Prince Albert Fire Department take part in a training exercise in May 2023.

The Prince Albert Fire Department responded to more than 1,800 calls in the year 2023.

The PAFD responded to the last call of 2023 on Dec. 31 at 11:15 p.m., bringing the total number of responses for the year to 1,827, which is a slight increase over 2022. Between 2021 and 2022, calls jumped from over 1,200 in 2021 to 1,700 in 2022.

“I would say it is sort of a steady increasing trend that we’ve seen over the last number of years,” PA Deputy Fire Chief Alex Paul said.

“I looked back as far as 2019, so that’s five years, and we’ve seen a slow but steady increase.

Paul said there was a slight decrease in false alarm calls in 2023. He said that in 2022 there was a company selling alarm systems door-to-door with a 30 day trial, which created an increase in calls.

“A lot of people were taking alarm systems that weren’t experienced in the operation of the alarm and then were subsequently having false alarms that we were responding to,” Paul explained. “I think with the people becoming familiar with their alarm systems and some of them didn’t keep the system beyond their 30 day free trial,” Paul said.

This caused the slight decrease in false alarm calls.

One particular apartment complex had difficulties with false alarms and malicious alarm pulls in 2022, Carlton Park Apartments on 28th Street, but Paul said they have changed practices and improved the situation.

“We have seen a dramatic decrease with that particular complex. We still go there occasionally, but not like it once was,” he explained.

A practice of fining apartment owners over malicious calls caused the owners to bring in a security company that monitors the complexes, and that has also improved the situation.

“They obviously went with trying to prevent the alarms which is good,” Paul said. “We don’t want anybody crying wolf. We don’t want alarms going off in buildings and the tenants, it became so commonplace nobody even exited the building because they just made the assumption that it was a false alarm. That’s a very dangerous precedent or a very dangerous position to be in.”

Paul said there will always be false alarms calls, but they were not responsible for the increase in calls last year.

Instead, Paul said Prince Albert’s growing population was one factor. The department served more people in more buildings, leading to more calls.

Paul compared this to 2020 and 2021 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when people were at home more.

“When you’re locked down, you’re not getting into car accidents and you’re maybe not doing things that are causing emergency services to respond,” he explained. “Life kind of got back to normal, if we want to call it that, in 2022 and 2023, so that’s where we saw the call volume probably went up to maybe where it should be based on a city our size.”

With 2024 underway, Paul said the Prince Albert Fire Department is looking forward to future expansion. City Council has set aside land for two additional fire stations and began a building fund to be established in the 2024 budget.

“There was an amount of money put forward into the 2024 budget with the anticipation that there will be additional funds added annually towards that fund to build a new fire station or stations at some point down the road,” Paul said. “That’s going to take time for that fund to build. Obviously, they’ll be built one at a time, spaced out over a few years, but the ultimate goal is to improve our response time.”

He explained that the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) has standards of four minutes response times for fire calls. This means that between a call to 911 coming in and preparation at the fire station and drive time should have the first truck arriving at the scene within four minutes 90 per cent of the time.

“The goal is to get fire stations at some point in the future positioned within the city, so that we have that under normal drive conditions 90 per cent of the time we can get to our call within four minutes,” Paul said.

“We’re not jumping up and down saying we needed fire station,” he added.

He said that they would welcome the stations.

“We do respond quite well out of the location that we’re in and we staff two engines in our one station,” Paul said.