Naloxone kits are used to try to save the lives of people who have suffered opioid overdoses. (Langley Advance files)

Firefighters see huge increase in medical calls

Langley City firefighters are heading out to 2,000 per cent more medical calls than 17 years ago.

Langley City firefighters are responding to 2,000 per cent more medical calls than they did less than 20 years ago, says a municipal councillor.

Coun. Nathan Pachal said he had already seen a big increase in the number of medical calls for local firefighters. He dug up the data from 2000 and 2017, crunched the numbers and posted them on his South Fraser Blog Thursday morning.

Statistics showed that in 2000, the most common types of calls for Langley City Fire Rescue were alarms and actual fires, though medical calls were a significant factor.

The department responded to 116 medical service calls overall in 2000, Pachal said.

In 2017, call volume had increased dramatically, and the vast bulk of that increase was in medical calls, which had risen to 2,514 for the year.

Pachal said the opioid crisis, which has seen a spiralling number of overdoses, seems to bear a significant portion of the blame for the huge increase.

“It shows how much of a crisis this truly is,” Pachal said.

Other types of calls, including fires, alarms, and hazardous materials calls, have also gone up during the same time, but not by nearly as much.

Alarm calls, for example, rose from 186 in 2000 to 258 in 2017. Fire calls actually dropped slightly, from 164 to 150.

Pachal noted that the City’s population has only gone up by nine per cent over the past 17 years.

The provincial government needs to come to the table and help with a crisis that falls under their jurisdiction, since it deals with health, Pachal said.

“We’re basically being a Band-Aid,” he said.

He believes the restructuring of the BC Ambulance Service plays into the huge increase in firefighter responses.

Until the province can do something, it’s putting a strain on the first responders in cities like Langley, and on the finances of the municipal government, said Pachal.

Although homelessness has become a major issue in the Langleys over the past decade, Pachal noted that the primary victims of the opioid overdose crisis are young men with homes and, in most cases, jobs.

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