Record number of calls taking toll on Vancouver firefighters’ mental health, says union

There are growing concerns about the mental health of Vancouver firefighters as overall call volume has reached yet another record high this year.

“Looking specifically at our firefighters downtown, they’re responding to 20 per cent more calls than then they were just a year ago,” said Lee Lax, vice-president of Vancouver Fire Fighters’ Union, IAFF Local 18. “(As for) overdoses, we’ve responded to nearly 1,000 more (calls) than we did last year.”

Lax says since 2019, calls have increased by nearly double, and this is happening without a significant increase in staffing.

“Our firefighters are faced with some pretty horrific scenes of members of society that are really struggling with their own mental health,” he said.

Lax says at this point, they’re looking for more leadership from the city to explore what needs to be done to maintain and stabilize firefighting services.

Earlier this week, Vancouver’s city council approved an additional $5.86 million for Vancouver Fire Rescue Services to cover staff benefits and overtime.

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