In just one weekend last month, two Vancouver fire halls responded to more than 270 calls.
The calls were covered by fire halls No. 8 and No. 2., and this is not out of the normal, according to Vancouver Fire Rescue Services (VFRS).
"We are a very, very busy department as a whole,” says Matthew Trudeau, VFRS public information officer.
According to the department, No. 8 and No. 2 are among the busiest fire halls in Canada.
"Per firefighter in Vancouver, we are two and a half times busier than the national average... for the amount of calls we run,” he says.
Firefighters at both halls are responding to a variety of calls. A large number of them are for overdoses, fires and fire alarm calls.
"We’ve always been really busy at this hall [No. 2]; since 2016, the number of calls has increased significantly,” says Trudeau, pointing to the year B.C. declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency.
Call volume in Vancouver has spiked by 91 per cent since 2016, he tells Glacier Media.
"Our overdoses have increased, our fires have increased and our fire alarms have increased," he says.
Hall No. 2 is located in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside neighbourhood.
"There are a lot of at-risk [individuals] and people in need down here and that drives up a lot of our call volumes,” Trudeau says. "About 50 per cent are medical-related."
Firefighters in Vancouver respond to an average of about 21 overdose calls a day, he adds.
"Last year, we went to over 7,700 overdoses in the city and the large number of them are down here in the Downtown Eastside."
Firefighters who come through Hall No. 2 stay for about a year before being transferred out. They're limited to 81 shifts.
"Physically and mentally, it does take a toll," says Trudeau, noting the fire hall has added additional members to alleviate some of the call volume.
Hall No. 8., meanwhile, increased their members just two months ago.
"We have a very dedicated, hard-working team that is highly trained and ready to respond 24 hours a day to meet the needs of anyone in the city," Trudeau says.
Surrounding halls, such as No. 1 and No. 3, also experience similar types of calls.
"All their numbers are on the rise. This is a huge demand in this area for fire and fire calls as well as overdoses and medical calls. It’s not just one hall or one isolated pocket, it is our neighbouring firefighters as well.”