Severe heat wave causes spike in 911 calls on Vancouver Island

Severe heat wave causes spike in 911 calls on Vancouver Island
WatchAs a prolonged heatwave swells over the Pacific Northwest, first responders deal with a big increase in emergency calls.

Gearing up to face a fire in nearly 40-degree weather, isn’t usual for Vancouver Island firefighters.

“This is like fighting a fire in Phoenix, Arizona, not Victoria, British Columbia,” said Langford Fire chief Chris Aubrey

This unprecedented, severe heat wave is making things drastically drier.

“We’ve gone from moderate to extreme in just a matter of days,” said Aubrey. “Normally that would be over a course of a month.”

That heat also, making things more dangerous.

“Over the weekend we got about double our normal volume,” said Aubrey.

“Predominantly what we’re seeing is an increase in medical calls. As the heath increases, people with underlying medical conditions are calling 911 more often.”

Paramedics across the province are seeing a similar story — a 25 per cent increase in calls.

And the added call volume on top of an existing paramedic shortage is meaning longer waits for patients.

“At times we had emergency calls that were delayed up to two hours to get an ambulance,” said Ambulance Paramedics of B.C. and Emergency Dispatchers of B.C. CUPE Local 873 provincial president Troy Clifford.

And some municipalities are offering a reprieve. Misting stations have popped up in Victoria’s Athletic Park from 2-8 today.

And cooling rooms for seniors in Sidney at the Shoal Centre have also been opened up.

“I have lived in Sidney for a long, long time, never have I experienced this kind of heat,” said Anna Hudson, a senior using the cooling centre.

“We don’t have air conditioning at home in our condo, so very appreciative to be able to come to a place like this and cool down.”

Seniors are more likely to have an underlying health condition this heat could interfere with.

So how can everyone beat the heat?

“Keeping a plant mister in the fridge, spraying yourself with cool water, soaking your feet in a cold tub,” said Tracy Ryan, executive director of the Silver Threads Service which is offering cooling down centres for seniors as well.

The number one thing to do though? Stay hydrated. Drink water before you feel thirsty.

Even as this unprecedented heat wave dissipates over the next few days, temperatures will remain high for the coming week.

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Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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