By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
Under the watch of Oshawa Fire Services, not a single resident has died in a fire since 2011, and despite an increase in calls, that stayed the same throughout 2015.
Providing the fire services’ annual report to the community services committee, Chief Steve Meringer explained that the increase in numbers could simply be attributed to Oshawa’s growing population. In 2015, the department responded to 4,686 calls, 331 more than in 2014.
For emergencies not related to fires, the department saw increases across the board, including pre-fire conditions, false alarms, hazardous materials, carbon monoxide detector activation, vehicle accidents and extrications, and medical aid.
For 2015, fires caused nearly $3.5 million in damage, while the leading determined cause of fires was related to smoking, found in 27 of the 123 fires last year. To date, 31 cases are considered as miscellaneous, undetermined or still under investigation.
Already in 2016, the city has seen more than $3 million in damage from approximately 40 fires.
However, despite a busy 2016, Oshawa Fire Services continue to maintain a spotless record.
“That’s not an accident,” Meringer says. “It’s a direct reflection of the work that’s being done in our prevention and education programs.”
In 2015, the fire department initiated its Think Ahead program in partnership with Grandview Children’s Centre to help families who have children with disabilities be prepared in the event of a fire. The department also initiated a post-traumatic stress disorder standing committee and program to help firefighters cope following a fire. The department’s training division also logged more than 30,000 hours of staff training hours, including several specialized training components.
Meringer says the department has no plans for slowing down, having already launched its Alarmed for Life campaign to educate the community on fire safety, along with plans to launch a pilot project to provide video streaming into schools for fire safety programs.
“That message is getting out there and these are the results that we’re seeing,” Meringer adds.
However, with these successes, Mayor John Henry voiced his concerns about a particular area of fire safety for city facilities, specifically smoke alarms for the deaf, noting that despite the similarity in technology, these devices can be astronomically higher in price.
“They need to be readily affordable, and that’s the challenge,” Henry said.
However, Meringer said the department is currently working with a manufacturer to try and determine a cost-effective option for such devices, something deputy-chief Steve Boyd says could net them “substantial discounts.”
Boyd added that the fire department is also waiting for a possible $10,000 grant from Enbridge that could help with providing these alarms.