As crews scrambled to put out a spectacular blaze along the Austin Heights business strip last Thursday, Coquitlam's fire chief described it as the most difficult fire this year.
That would be saying something, considering Coquitlam Fire and Rescue, as of the end of August, had responded to 272 fires in the city since January.
At that pace, the department is on target to deal with 408 fires in 2012, which would result in a 13per-cent increase from the previous year.
But there isn't an arsonist running around or some spate of people forgetting to turn off their oven or put out their smoke.
There is actually a fairly simple reason for the spike in fires in Coquitlam, according to fire chief Tony Delmonico.
"With a population base increasing, your call volume will increase, that goes without saying," he told The NOW.
Though fire stats vary from year-to-year, it's population changes that can have the biggest impact on the volume of calls.
It's not just fire calls that have increased at the halls in Coquitlam.
Over the years, the department, as a first responder, has been called on to deal with all sorts of emergencies, from car accidents and medical issues to in-home flooding.
So far in 2012, the department has responded to 4,066 calls, and is on pace to top the 6,000 mark by the end of the year. In 2011, Coquitlam Fire and Rescue crews responded to 5,728 incidents.
The chief is confident the department can handle the load.
Coquitlam city council recently approved a threeyear staffing plan that will see a total of 20 new firefighters join the department, including eight ready to go this year.
In the meantime, the northeast fire hall in the Burke Mountain area is now fully operational.
"We're prepared to come across anything at any given time," Delmonico said.
While the chief isn't seeing any particular trends when it comes to the nature of the calls, at the end of the year, the department will review all the incidents to see in which way it might gear its public-education program.
It's a slightly different tale at the fire halls across the way in Port Coquitlam. So far in PoCo, the department has dealt with 60 fires in 2012, compared to 74 by the same time last year.
Though the number of fires is down this year, the department has been called out to more car crashes.
As of the end of August, the department had responded to 150 accidents, compared to 133 by the same time in 2011.
"The trends in Port Coquitlam are based on the growth in the city and growth in population," said PoCo fire chief Nick Delmonico.
However, he pointed out the numbers can fluctuate from year to year.
A perfect example of this is in the dollar amount of damage calculated annually from fires.
In 2011, an estimated $2.7 million of damage was caused by fire, compared to just $500,000 in 2010.
The total for 2012 won't be calculated until the end of the year.
But unlike Coquitlam, the PoCo fire chief acknowledged his department is having trouble keeping up with the call volume.
Delmonico noted the department hasn't had a staff increase in 22 years, while the city has doubled in size.
"We've definitely reached a point where we have to have our staffing reviewed," he said.
That process is already underway. Delmonico, who became chief last year, was tasked this summer with reviewing the department's entire operation. He wouldn't disclose the results, but the review is expected to be in front of city council sometime in the fall.
In the meantime, he said the department has implemented some changes to make the operation more efficient.
Port Moody Fire-Rescue did not get back to The NOW for the story prior to press deadline.