Oct 12, 2016 Return to Headlines

Op Ed - Protecting our City

by Heather Escaravage |

COQUITLAM, BC – Oct. 12, 2016 - Cranes and construction sites are a common sight in Coquitlam these days, as we see more high-rises going up, new neighbourhoods being built, and redevelopment activity near the Evergreen Line. Some might wonder if the City is equipped to handle the rising number and complexity of emergency responses that will come with this development. The short answer is: yes.

The growth we see today was planned years ago, along with measures to ensure the community’s safety. Coquitlam Fire Rescue is B.C.’s fifth largest fire service and similar in capability to departments such as Vancouver, Surrey, and Burnaby, with well-trained full-time firefighters, top-of-the-line trucks and equipment, and experienced leadership. 

For example, when I came to Coquitlam Fire Rescue three years ago as the former City of Vancouver Deputy Fire Chief of Operations, I brought extensive experience in not only firefighting in densely developed areas, but also in high-rise firefighting, light rail emergency operations (e.g. Canada Line and SkyTrain), and operational command (e.g. 2010 Winter Olympics).

When a 9-1-1 call comes in for Coquitlam Fire Rescue, it goes to our state-of-the-art fire dispatch centre staffed by local dispatchers. We respond to structure fires with five trucks plus a chief officer and 21 personnel, and have enough capacity to provide second and third alarm responses (additional trucks and crews) without having to call upon neighbouring fire services for help. 

If the incident is in a tall building, we employ our special high-rise procedures for a timely and effective response, and we also have a voluntary, high-rise stair-marking program for safer evacuations and firefighting. It’s important to note that modern-day tall buildings are technologically advanced structures, with built-in safety measures for the public and firefighters.

The department also has specialized teams to respond to calls requiring high-angle rope rescues, confined space rescues, structural collapse and trench rescues, water rescues, hazardous materials response, auto extrication, and forestry wildland firefighting. Our work with volunteer groups such as Coquitlam Search and Rescue and Coquitlam Amateur Radio also adds to our capacity.

To maximize our resources, we assign crews and apparatus on a fluid basis. For example, if the Austin Heights crews are busy, crews from one of the other three halls will fill in. We deploy our resources in a way that ensures we have the appropriate vehicles and personnel responding to the unique needs of each call, while reducing fuel and maintenance costs. We also continually monitor call volumes, response times and other key indicators so we can adjust our response as needed.

Our residents and businesses can rest assured that Coquitlam Fire Rescue will continue an aggressive and responsible approach to fire prevention, inspection and fire reduction programs to keep our growing community safe, now and in the future.   

Wade Pierlot
Fire Chief
City of Coquitlam Fire Rescue