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Cambridge Fire Department reports 22% increase in emergency calls in 2023


The Cambridge Fire Department saw a 22 per cent increase in emergency calls for service in 2023 compared to 2022.

At a city council meeting Tuesday, Fire Chief Rob Martin shared the update with councillors.

His report showed there were 9,667 incidents in 2023 – that’s an average of more than 26 calls per day.

There were 98 structure fires reported, which is a five per cent reduction from 2022.

“We also have outdoor fires – about five per cent of the 22 per cent increase came from outdoor fires,” Martin said. “The other percentages would come from rescue calls. We had more river rescue, water rescue type calls, as well as [vehicle collisions] and medicals.”

Martin came on as the city’s fire chief in November 2023. In an interview with CTV News Thursday, he said the team did “phenomenal” last year.

“I would say that they knew that they were a busy department,” he said. “I don’t know that you necessarily realize the increase… until you see it in the numbers.”

The report says total fire loss equalled more than $9.2 million, which represents a very slight increase from the year prior.

Medical calls were up to 5,790, while the number of false alarms rose from 964 to 1,111 – a number that’s concerning for councillor Helen Shewry, who sees a lot of these as possibly preventable calls.

“If we could reduce those, I think it will be less strain on the fire department,” Shewry said.

Martin says the increased number of total calls meant they had less time for staff to participate in training exercises, and noted some proactive programs also suffered as a result.

There were 98 structure fires in 2023, which was down from the previous year.

Martin credits the work of the fire prevention team for that number decreasing.

But the overall number of other fires – like outdoor and property – rose last year.

Shewry wanted to know how many of those calls were for encampment fires.

She said Martin told her it was about 91 calls.

“So when you take your budget and divide it amongst the calls, per call – it would work out to almost $3,000 a call.”

Martin said the department is the process of developing new analytic tools.

“That will allow us to dig a little bit deeper – look for themes, look for trends,” he continued. “And then we’ll be able to apply some better solutions.”

In 2023, the fire department had 157 fulltime equivalent positions and gross operating expenditures of $29,637,000. Top Stories

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