The Courtenay fire station has closed to the public during the coronavirus situation. File photo

Fires, accidents down in the mid-Island during coronavirus pandemic

Courtenay, Parksville first responders say the roads are quieter meaning fewer calls

If there is a bright side to social distancing and stay-at-home protocols, first responders may have found it.

The Courtenay Fire Department has dealt with fewer fires and fewer car accidents since the outbreak of the coronavirus.

The approach has also changed for crews in the event of a fire or accident, Courtenay Chief Don Bardonnex said. If there’s smoke in a building, firefighters ask occupants to stand back. At an accident, they need to first question people about their health before dealing with the scene in order to determine the level of equipment.

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“Our call volume is down a bit, because people just aren’t out there. They are staying home,” Bardonnex said. “We’re definitely noticing it that way.”

Normally, he notes Ryan Road is backed up to the top of the hill at 3 p.m. on weekdays.

“Now, you don’t even have to wait at a traffic light. Getting to calls is easier, getting firefighters to the hall is easier. Things changed here by the simple fact that firefighters aren’t allowed at the hall unless there’s a response happening.”

That observation is being seconded further south along the Island Highway, where the Oceanside RCMP say they’ve seen traffic complaints in the Parksville-Qualicum area decrease since COVID-19.

Cities across the globe have seen their rush-hour traffic plunge as people have responded to the pandemic by self-isolating, quarantining and working from home.

“Overall, it’s been a little bit lower for us, but it’s changing minute-to-minute,” said Cpl. Mike Kane. “Untested times for everybody.”

Cpl. Kane said incidents of public disturbances have also decreased.

The Courtenay fire station has closed to the public. Inquiries are dealt with over the phone.

“We’ve discontinued training until this (COVID-19) is done, just because you don’t want all those people in one room,” Bardonnex said.

“My advice to everybody is keep doing the job (to help flatten the curve), stay at home as much as possible and stay safe.”

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